It was this series of sandhill crane notecard images that prompted me to ask the question, "Is there any place on earth I could view and photograph a whooping crane caring for its chick?"I was speaking to George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation (ICF), during a quiet moment at a wildlife exhibit in the spring of 2004. So many times, while expressing delight over this card collection, now sold out, customers asked me, "do you have any whooping crane images like these?"
I expected George's answer to be one of amusement. The original wild population of endangered migrating whooping cranes, numbering approximately 307 today, nests in Wood Buffalo in the Northwest Territory of Canada. Their nesting sites are inaccessible except to authorized biologists who monitor their numbers. Because this population was reduced to only 15 birds in the early 40's, genetic diversity is of up-most importance to the survival of the species. Captive-reared birds are carefully monitored for genetic value to the wild population and decisions about each off-spring are made by an international recovery team.
To my surprise, he responded by saying there was a good possibility that the whooping crane pair at the Amoco Whooping Crane Exhibit at ICF might be allowed to raise their own chick within full view of the public. And so it was that this door of opportunity opened.It was in June of the next year, 2005, that I received the call, "we're putting a pipping egg in the nest tonight and it should be hatched by morning." With that, I dropped everything and began the twelve hour drive from Knoxville, TN to Baraboo, WI, arriving around eleven a.m. June 19.
The sleeping chick had hatched in the pre-dawn hours. When it awoke and raised it's head, two very attentive parents greeted it with food.The image above is among my favorite photos because it captures the parents' earnest attentiveness. As the chick stirred, they moved in unison, almost as one, carefully offering the chick the tiniest of insects held in their enormous bills.The chick toppled over on his face, so new was he to life that when he reached for the morsels he lost his balance. The parents retracted their bills, waited for him to erect himself, then ever so slowly, moved their bills toward him again to offer the food.
Keep in mind that an adult whooping crane is five ft tall and its newly hatched chick measures only about four inches, not even the size of the adult's head and bill combined...
and you get a glimpse of how truely awe inspiring it was to witness the patience and gentleness demonstrated by these two parents. Next: A whooping crane chick's day.
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.