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

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Hurricane Harvey and Whooping Cranes

Friends of the Wild Whoopers, (FOTWW) has had several inquiries about what effects Hurricane Harvey may have had to the wild whooping cranes’ wintering habitat on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

The whooping cranes of the wild flock and their new fledglings are still in Canada on their nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park. Mike Keizer, Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada told FOTWW, “Hope all goes well in Texas. Glad the Whooping Cranes are still here.”

They won’t start their fall migration until the later part of next month and the first whoopers may arrive at Aransas for the winter right after the middle of October, with the remaining whoopers following until the middle of December, which is after the hurricane season.

What salt water from the storm surge that has gotten into the brackish bays will normally be flushed out with fresh flood water flowing in from upstream. Also with the predicted rainfall of 1 to 3 feet, the system should restore itself soon. It is too early to determine if there was any habitat loss and the priority now it to keep the area’s citizens safe, out of harm’s way and back into their homes and/or rebuilding.

Whatever the damage, if any, to the wild flock’s habitat, the flock will endure and survive as it has done over the years.

FOTWW and everyone is concerned about the refuge and surrounding area and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those citizens affected by Hurricane Harvey. We hope that there is no loss of life and little to no damage to property and habitat.

FOTWW will keep everyone updated as we get information.

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