We now have 69 rare whooping cranes living in the wild and migrating through eastern North America. The sight of these birds never ceases to thrill me. I have had the good fortune of visiting the wild whooping crane population at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the gulf coast of Texas and this week, the re-introduced wild population at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, and I am grateful every day for the men and women whose dedication and persistence have helped this species recover from the brink of extinction.
A natural survival mechanism combined with man's innovation has made this eastern migratory population possible. Through a natural instinct called imprinting, a newly hatched chick bonds with and follows the first figure that it sees. It is this natural instinct that makes it possible for captive reared hatchlings to accept costumes and ultralights as though they were parents, so that migration training can occur.
I positioned myself at the bottom of the tower the morning of Necedah's Cranefest.It offers a different perspective and some challenges...hungry mosquitos and high foliage.
But both tower level and ground level give you excellent views.
Mature whooping cranes are white with black wing tips, a bare patch of red skin on the top of their head and a black facial mask.
Juvenile whooping cranes still have cinnamon feathers on their head, neck and body and no facial mask.
There will be 15 juvenile whooping cranes and four ultralight parents beginning their migration south on October 17 or as weather permits. This will add another generation of whooping cranes to the world's rarest crane species. You can follow their journey by viewing Operation Migration's field journal. And for kids, check out Journey North's reports on the whooping crane migration.
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Submitted to Bird Photography Weekly #5.
For the Love of It...
...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.