An afternoon with a whooping crane family

By Val Mann – Guest Author

Very early Thursday morning Kim and I packed up Max (our car) and headed three hours north to the whooping cranes’ preferred staging grounds in farmers’ fields and sloughs. It was a warmish, beautiful, sunny day – perfect for a drive in the countryside.

Max doubles as a blind with the camera lenses through open windows. The car is a gold-brown colour and usually coated with a layer of grid road dust – perhaps blending with the golden harvested fields. Whatever the reason, wildlife tend to ignore the car.

Whooping crane

Whooping crane family foraging in the slough. Photo by Val Mann

Just over a grid road hill, a family of whooping cranes, parents and a colt, were foraging in a roadside slough. The family ignored us and continued to feed. At one point, judging from the behaviour, the parents wanted to roost and snooze in the warm prairie afternoon sunshine. Junior showed signs of being bored. After unsuccessfully trying to rouse the parents, the colt went foraging for snacks, wandering towards us. The parents kept a watchful eye on the youngster while they preened, but did not raise alarm. Eventually the colt returned to roost with the parents. Not that long after, a huge grain truck drove by and the cranes flew deep into the fields.

Wow, what an amazing experience to share time with them!

This was not a typical sighting. Normally the cranes are extremely human intolerant and keep at least 500 metres (about 1500 feet) from roads, humans, etc. The middle of a farmer’s field would be the norm.

Please note that we were actually a distance away – on a pullover off the far side of the road. The powerful super telephoto lens and post-production cropping make the birds appear considerably closer than they actually were.

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is very thankful that Val Mann shared her adventure with us. We hope that you enjoyed it and the photos below of the family of wild whooping cranes that she sent along to go with her story. Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge.

Thank you, Val!

Whooping Crane

Junior foraging with parents in the background. Photo by Val Mann


Whooping Crane

Whooping crane family preening together while roosting. Photo by Val Mann


Two whooping cranes: Junior and a parent, in flight. Photo by Val Mann


Whooping Cranes are on their way to Aransas NWR

Whooping Cranes migrating south

Last Week, six wild whoopers, one of them a juvenile, were spotted in a field northwest of Cheviot Lake, SK with hundreds of Sandhill Cranes and some Snow Geese. Our friend and supporter Val Mann from Saskatchewan sent us a couple of photos and her observation. Again, we thank Val for her fantastic photos of the wild whoopers.

“Kim and I were out on the grid roads in the central part of Saskatchewan yesterday looking for whooping cranes.  We had seen a report describing six whooping cranes in a farmer’s field earlier this week and wanted to see if they were still there.  About noonish, we saw three of the cranes, still in the area.  They were in the field with a number of sandhill cranes, over a mile from the road. The photos show the whooping cranes very far off in the distance – even for a powerful telephoto lens.”

Whoopers from Wood Buffalo National Park heading for Aransas NWR

Whooping Crane

Whooping Cranes somewhere in Saskatchewan. Photo courtesy of Val Mann

Whoopers take flight

“About 45 minutes later, a very large flock of snow geese took to flight from a nearby slough.  As the snow geese approached the area with the cranes, the cranes stopped feeding and began to look skyward.   Shortly thereafter, the cranes took flight and flew towards a large lake just southeast of the field.”

Whooping Cranes

Whooping Cranes somewhere in Saskatchewan. Photo courtesy of Val Mann

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.