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Whooping Cranes

Posted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 4:00 pm
by Ceropegia
Went to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur, Alabama hoping to see some of the endangered whooping cranes that winter there. The three that were visible from the Observation Building were so far away they were little more than white blips in a sea of grey sandhill cranes. But I was told that a group of whoopers were foraging in a field adjacent to a nearby high school so I headed over there and was richly rewarded to find a group of seven including a juvenile, #69-16, called Zion, named after the National Park in celebration of the National Park Service’s centennial, was hatched and raised by foster parent whooping cranes at the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin in 2016. In the fall, she was released into the wild in Wisconsin near an adult pair, the goal being that she would associate with them and follow them when they migrated. She never really bonded with them, instead migrating to Wheeler for the winter with a group of sandhill cranes. At Wheeler, she has begun associating with other whooping cranes.

The two cranes in the first photo can be identified by their leg bands. The bird in front is 11-15. He is a male, hatched on May 11, 2015 at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, captive raised, transferred to Wisconsin in September, and later migrated south to Florida by following an ultralight aircraft, occasionally being crated and trucked to the next stop when he fell behind or the weather was bad. He successfully returned to Wisconsin in the spring of 2016 with several other cranes. In the fall, however, he did not return to Florida, but instead found his way to Wheeler, where he is wintering. His story is at (https://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/crane ... _1511.html). The other crane is 65-15, a female, named Leola. She was hatched on June 8, 2015, captive raised ,and moved to Wisconsin in the fall. However, instead of being taught to follow an ultralight for migration, she was released near other cranes and followed them when they migrated. She spent her first winter near Goose Pond in Southern Illinois and returned to Wisconsin the next spring. In the fall, she migrated to Wheeler where she is currently wintering. Her story is at (https://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/crane ... s_65D.html).

Re: Whooping Cranes

Posted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 4:11 pm
by Ceropegia
A couple more shots. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to watch them because shortly after I arrived some students came out to practice at the athletic field near the cranes and they took off.

Re: Whooping Cranes

Posted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:12 am
by St3v3M
It looks like a wonderful place and thank you for the backstory. I love the first as they look like they are reverse mirroring each other.

Thank you for sharing this! S-

Re: Whooping Cranes

Posted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 12:33 pm
by Ceropegia
Thanks. I only wish I had had more time to watch and photo them. They were far enough away that my presence did not bother them, but it did present a challenge getting halfway decent photos without a tripod with the camera I had..

Re: Whooping Cranes

Posted: Thu Jan 26, 2017 4:02 pm
by St3v3M
Ceropegia wrote:Thanks. I only wish I had had more time to watch and photo them. They were far enough away that my presence did not bother them, but it did present a challenge getting halfway decent photos without a tripod with the camera I had..

Another day will present itself, but at least you have those memories and shared them with us! Thank you! S-