A friend confirmed a few weeks ago that Sandhill Cranes had returned to southern Indiana.…
I went to Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife area today hoping to find some snow geese, white pelicans, sand hill cranes and if I was lucky, some whooping cranes. I was afraid, however, that the migratory birds had headed north with the warm winds this weekend. Sure enough, after driving around for two hours on dirt and gravel roads, I did not spot any of the large birds. There were some northern spooners and a few other ducks, but, not cranes or pelicans.
I checked back with the office and they confirmed that the larger birds had left. So, I told Google Maps to take me home. I figured it would route me the same way I came, but it selected a different route using back roads much to my surprise. About three miles into my trip, I spotted two or three white birds off in a field and two folks observing them. They confirmed they were Whooping Cranes and suggested I park behind their car. We were there just a few minutes when they took off and flew on down the road. We picked up and moved further down. I stayed for almost 45 minutes talking to some other folks (who live near me) waiting for the birds to take flight. I was moving back to my car when they took off!
There appear to be less than 500 migratory whooping cranes in the U.S. I was really lucky to be able to photograph three of these wonderful birds. There is an interesting story of bringing them back from extinction in the 1940’s where there just 15 birds! See http://operationmigration.org/ for an interesting account of raising and training the young birds.
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