Considering most of us have just experienced one of the warmest winters on record, it’s little wonder migration has begun earlier than usual.
We already have a handful of Whooping cranes back in Wisconsin, including 18-11, 16-11 at Horicon Marsh. Others were spotted in flight over various counties in Illinois Friday afternoon but it’s nearly impossible to see legbands while they’re in flight due to distance, lighting and the fact that often the plush feathers hide the legbands.
The youngsters in the Class of 2015 are still at St. Marks along with a few sub-adult cranes from previous years. They’re not typically in a rush to get back north until they reach breeding age and get serious about selecting and defending a territory.
Confirmed on migration is male 4-12 & female 3-14 (aka the Royal Couple). I had last seen these two in late January in Miller County, Georgia. We were still on migration and camped near Bainbridge when PTT hits for 3-14 indicated they had left the St. Marks area and were not terribly far north of our current location.
Satellite hits since then confirmed she (and very likely 4-12) stayed at their Miller County location at least until midday on 7 March. A subsequent hit late the same evening indicated she had flown in a northwesterly direction – logging more than 250 miles before stopping to roost in Marion County, Alabama.
The next day, it appears they departed and flew roughly 180 miles to their current location in northwest Kentucky (County name withheld until we received confirmation they have departed).