Whooping cranes spotted near Aulne, Kansas

Peabody Gazette-Bulletin

By OLIVIA HASELWOOD

Staff writer

Those traveling down Quail Creek Rd. near 140th Rd. may have noticed some large strange looking white birds. Those who noticed the birds for what they were could not get home to get their cameras fast enough.

There are only around 600 wild whooping cranes according to Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, nine of which stayed to rest in a disked milo field near Aulne. The landowner, Eugene Just, had sowed oats in the field.

“If they are eating the oats, I won’t have any oats left,” Just said.

Local bird enthusiast Lloyd Davies of Marion said the birds stopped to eat grain as they made their yearly migration from Texas to Canada.

“They basically make a jaunt from Texas to here, fatten up, and fly the last leg north,” he said. “Since there are only 240 in this flock and only 500 in existence, it’s pretty rare.”

He said most of the flock will travel to the sand hills outside Kearney, Neb., where they will stay for nearly six weeks before completing their trip to Canada.

The cranes were still near Aulne Tuesday, but Davies said they will only stay for a short period before continuing their trek north. Trackers on many of the birds help researchers inform local birdwatchers where the cranes are located.

Davies said this is the first time he has seen the birds in Marion County, but he witnessed three or four outside of Manhattan a couple of years ago.

He noticed that several of the birds were banded and thought they were juveniles, which he said is a good sign of population growth in the right direction.

Mike Carroll of Marion said he was on his way home from church when he saw the cranes in the field.

“My first guess was they were a swan or a crane; they were just too tall for snow geese,” he said. “I saw Lloyd’s post on Facebook and had to go back out there with the camera.”

Carroll returned to the field with his brother-in-law to take photos of the birds.

“I felt quite privileged to have seen them,” he said. “It’s like the first time you get to see one of the eagles at one of the lakes. It’s just really cool.”

Carroll said he is not an avid bird watcher but found the cranes to be too good of a photo opportunity to pass up.

“I just find it interesting to see different birds not generally seen here,” he said.

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Whooping Cranes on their Nesting Habitat, Wood Buffalo , Canada

Whooping Cranes on their Nesting Habitat, Wood Buffalo , Canada

Have you visited Wood Buffalo National Park in northwest Canada to see whooping cranes? If so, you are among the very few. Because it is such a remote place for most people to visit, Friends of the Wild Whoopers  (FOTWW) wants to share some photographs with you that provides a sample of whoopers in their natural nesting area.

Wood Buffalo National Park, located in northeastern Alberta and southern Northwest Territories, is the largest national park in Canada at 17,300 sq. mi. (44,807 km2  ). It is also the second-largest national park in the world. Importantly, it is the nesting site for the only remaining wild self-sustaining flock of whooping cranes on the planet.

FOTWW was fortunate recently to link up with John David McKinnon who shared his whooping crane album with us. John said, “It’s time to show the world the whoopers at Wood Buffalo National Park.” So that’s our goal.  Be sure to check out his awesome photos and enjoy the beauty of both, the wild ones and Wood Buffalo Nation Park in John’s album:   Whooping Cranes .

Thank you John for sharing, so the world can see the precious whooping cranes and Wood Buffalo National Park.

 

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Whooping Cranes-Signs of Spring

Posted on Fri, Mar. 21, 2014
By Beccy Tanner
The Wichita Eagle

Any day now, whooping cranes are expected to pass through the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

Last year, the first whooping crane arrived on March 6.

In 2012 and 2011, the whoopers arrived on March 16.

Travis Heying/ File photo Two rare whooping cranes come to rest at the Little Salt Marsh at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in 2010.

“Statistically, their peak movement is the last week of March and the first two weeks of April,” said Barry Jones, visitor services specialist at the refuge, in Stafford County.

The arrival of the whoopers generally signals the spring migration. But there are signs that spring has arrived.

Already, flocks of sandhill cranes have been passing through the refuge on their way to the staging grounds on Nebraska’s Platte River. Other birds – four tundra swans were spotted in Quivira along with a handful of pelicans, 200 Baird’s sandpipers and thousands of ducks – are resting in the water-filled marshes.

Read more here: Signs of Spring

 

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Migratory Behavior of Whooping Cranes.

mirgratory behavior of whooping cranes
Two adult Whooping Cranes in flight. ~Chuck Hardin

Probably less than a dozen persons in the past 50 years have actually witnessed the northward departure of whooping cranes (Grus Americana) from their wintering grounds on and adjacent to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Few, if any, have observed a more spectacular exodus than the junior author watched on the morning of 6 April 1966.

On this clear, sunlit day he was conducting a combination routine and spring whooping crane departure date patrol through traditional crane habitat along the east shore road of the refuge. While traveling southwesterly one-half mile north of the northeast corner of whooper feed plot No. 1, he counted 32 of the giant birds within this managed crane feeding area. When he was about 1,000 yards from the cranes, 12 of them arose and flew eastward about one mile and lit along the northwest edge of Sundown (Mullet) Bay. While watching the 12 birds alight, he heard the obstreperous calling of most or all of the remaining cranes and turned to see that these birds had taken to the air. It became apparent later that they were en route to their remote northern nesting area.

Migratory behavior

Shortly after taking to the air, the flock quickly divided into groups of 3, 3, 2, 7, and 5 birds and circled clockwise, upward, and northward in a spiraling motion. The groups of 7 and 5 birds were thought to be yearlings and non-breeders. The remaining groups were family units. The horizontal and vertical separation of the individual groups varied and was estimated to range from 400 to 1,200 feet. The diameter of the circle was judged to be one-fourth mile.

The 20 cranes left the ground at 9:00 am; 12 minutes later they were only visible as tiny airborne specks, and in a few more moments they were no longer discernible through a 7 X 50 binocular.

Winds at the time of departure were from the southeast at about 18-20 mph. Each turn of a group of cranes into the wind resulted in a gain in altitude. As the birds spiraled upward, they maintained their respective positions with no noticeable change in the size or shape of the spiral. They “whooped” continuously as they moved upward and away from the observer. At no time were the 12 birds remaining on the ground heard calling.

Departure observed

Earlier that morning Benham had observed one immature and two adult whooping cranes feeding inside whooper feeding plot No. 2, approximately one mile north of the main body of birds. They had not flown as he passed about 1,500 feet from them. On his return past this spot he noted the three cranes about 500 feet off the ground, spiraling and calling loudly in a manner similar to the previously departed birds. The time was 9:14 am. At 9:19 am, Benham lowered the binoculars to rest his eyes. When the three cranes were last seen, they appeared larger than the 20 birds at last glimpse, so it is possible constant surveillance with the binoculars would have rendered the trio visible for longer than five minutes.

It is reasonable to assume calls of the first departing cranes were heard by the later migrating family because of wind direction, audibility of the cranes’ piercing whoops, and the close distance between the two groups when the airborne flock flew over or within one-half mile or less of the family unit. We hypothesize that the exodus of the 20 birds precipitated the departure of the lone family group.

It is interesting that the first contingent of migrating cranes displayed some aerial territorialism, although they were all observed feeding side by side within the food plot a few minutes before departure.—Robert H. Shields, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, Portland, Oregon, and Earl L. Benham, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, Austwell, Texas.

[The Auk, April-June 1968, Volume 85, Number 2, Page 318]

 

 

 

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