Whooping cranes’ flights are very unique

Published 5:19 pm Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When I was a young boy my dad took me with him on occasions to the Mississippi coast, where he bought dozens of gallons of oysters from DeJeans Oyster House, which was located near what is now the Golden Nugget Biloxi casino. He bought dozens of gallons and resold them to our friends and neighbors in Perdido and Atmore.

Many times along the way we had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Mississippi sandhill cranes, long legged birds that lived in the wilds but would often feed along U.S. Highway 90, the main road to the coast. They were rather tall birds and had a moderate size beak. If I remember correctly the birds nested near Gautier, a few miles east of Ocean Springs. Some call them whooping cranes and others say sandhill cranes.

I went to the Internet and learned that these two species are somewhat related. One impressive feature is the fact they are both in short supply and are protected by the federal government. This area is one of only a few sanctuaries across the nation.
Whooping cranes make their annual migration flight about this time each year. They travel south from Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in central Wisconsin to various reserves down south. One of those reserves is the St. Mark’s National Wildlife reserve located south of Tallahassee and not too far from Perry, Florida.

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But, here is the remarkable feature of their flight. They are accompanied by an ultra light aircraft piloted by one man leading the way for the birds while in flight. The birds stay very close to this plane like an adopted mother.

In Wisconsin, prior to the migration, workers will adorn pure white clothing and hoods, which serves as disguises from humans. Before the plane ascends the motor will run for a few moments while the birds assemble. Then, when the small craft is airborne the birds will fly right alongside the plane.

Known as Operation Migration, the entourage departs in October on a journey of approximately 1,285 miles. Several dozen birds make up the flight.

Each year, members of bird watching clubs from across the U.S. flock down south to observe the arrival of these birds. These watchers camp out in north Alabama for the last stopover and then motor on down to St. Marks, Florida for the final stop. AP news reports that the number of bird watching clubs increase in numbers each year.

For your information, Operation Migration relies on grants and contributions from individuals and foundations to sustain their goals. OM has played a leading role in the introduction of endangered whooping cranes into eastern North America since 2001. In 1940 the species almost became extinct as only 15 birds could be accounted.

A Walt Disney movie, Those Callaways, was a story about a New England family who had dreams to build a sanctuary for migrating birds. It depicted problems of building a man made lake and growing fields of corn. Nature’s elements, wild animals and lusty hunters brought displeasure and discouragement to the family. But, as all good stories go, the sanctuary was successfully established and the birds found a permanent “stopping off paradise’ for their annual flight.

Now, let’s take a look at some news from 1970.

Popular city policeman J.D. Stewart retired from the local force after many years of outstanding service. In his later years he was seen walking the streets and checking the parking meters. If he detected a meter soon needing a nickel he popped his head in the store and gave the car owner a friendly warning. It was his personable way of letting the owner know he did want to give him a ticket.

Vandals burned Grissett Bridge that year, causing considerable financial damage. The long bridge was located not too far from Barnett’s Crossroads. Travelers in that area were forced to use a distant out of the way route for a few months until the bridge was repaired.

One prominent death was noted in the spring of 1970. Greene King, owner of a successful air conditioning firm, passed away after many years of service here.
And Masland carpets made a sizable donation to Green Lawn Hospital’s coronary unit.

More next week.

You can email Lowell McGill at exam@frontiernet.net.