Yesterday, at the halftime of the Packers game, we decided to take a quick drive up to where the Whooping Cranes were last year. We had not heard any reports of sightings and thought we’d check it out.
Sure enough, once we got on the street (more of a rural road), there were a few cars and pickup trucks parked and I knew what had attracted them. There were three Whoopers, a mom and dad along with a juvenile. They were feeding about a hundred yards from the road and oblivious to the cameras and binoculars trained on them.
I took a bunch of photos but they were too far away for good resolution. I got out my telescope and we got a good look at them — one had two leg bands on it and the juvenile was quite brown in spots. Very elegant birds. I tried to digiscope using my old Rebel XT and took a few shots when something flushed them and I lost them in the scope.
We watched them gracefully fly away, taking their time deciding where to head, and slowly head back towards the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge where most of their 175 western brethren are wintering.
Seeing them slowly recede to the Northeast made me think of the 2500 mile journey they took the fall from Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. They are protected at the refuge and stock up on blue crabs and clams — and next spring will launch for the return trip north. Great birds — hope to see more while we are here.
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