Monday, January 16, 2012

Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival and It's Cranes

A spectacular watchable wildlife event!   
Above you see thousands of sandhill cranes lifting off at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge as something unidentified stirs them all at once.  The rare Asian hooded crane, which was in clear view several times during the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival on Saturday, is among the flying birds.  

The Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest sandhill crane staging areas in the east, second only to Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Indiana.  Sandhill cranes stop-over at the Hiwassee Wildlife refuge near Dayton, TN to feed and rest as they migrate south to Georgia and Florida for the winter.  As many as 10,000 may remain, over-wintering in Tennessee.
Watching and listening as thousands of cranes take flight is an awe-inspiring experience.  I never fail to wonder how they keep from colliding.  With a wing span of 6-7 ft and so many in flight at once, it is certain they must bump each other. But clearly this doesn't interfere with their spectacular unison flight that at first travels in one direction, then divides into spiraling layers as they catch thermals and glide in search of another safe resting place (shown below).
More than 2200 people enjoyed the sandhill crane viewing at the festival on Saturday and close to that number were present on Sunday.

The festival was sponsored by the Tennessee Ornithological Society (TOS), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the Barbara J Mapp Foundation.  Two of these sponsors are represented in the image below.
From left to right:  John Noel (TOS), Melinda Welton (TOS), festival co-chair; Ed Carter, TWRA Executive Director (with raised glasses viewing the hooded crane), and Kirk Miles, TWRA Region III, Wildlife Program Manager.  Cyndi Routledge (TOS) also co-chaired the festival activities, along with Dan Hicks (TWRA).  Events were coordinated among three sites, the Birchwood School, the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge observation area, and the Cherokee Removal Memorial, where educational displays, interpreters, presentations and refreshments were available for festival participants.
According to the 2006 USF&WS Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Related Recreation, more than 87 million Americans or 38% of the U.S. population, age 16 or older, hunt, fish or observe wildlife, spending $120 billion.  This amount is "roughly equal to America's total spending at all spectator sports, casinos, motion pictures, golf courses, country clubs, amusement parks, and arcades combined,"  the survey reported. Within those wildlife related activities, 71 million or 31% of Americans observed wildlife and spent $45 billion.
Add to these economic benefits, known research that links positive health to nature-related activities including improved mental health, anti-aging benefits and enhanced child development, and we have a golden treasure in our migrating sandhill crane population that is truly hard to measure.

For me personally, having attended this festival since 1999, I enjoyed reuniting with many old friends and the opportunity to share crane stories with many new ones.  A special thank you to everyone that said "hello" and introduced themselves. It was a special treat to meet people who know me through my blog posts and to hear their comments!

Links and Resources:

Top Crane Posts on this blog:  Hooded Crane at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in TN
Crane Magic--Three Crane Species at Hiwassee.  Other posts on:  the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival, Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge and sandhill cranes.

At my companion blog, Vickie's Sketchbook:  Sandhill Cranes and Art
Sandhill crane art in my website galleries

8 comments:

  1. Great post and photos of the cranes. I would like to see them before they leave in February?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Brian "Fox" EllisJanuary 16, 2012 at 1:56 PM

    Thank you for a wonderful summation of an ecstatic weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Eileen,
    Depending on weather conditions, sandhill cranes begin to leave TN and migrate back to their breeding grounds in mid to late February and are often gone from the refuge by the first week of March. Hope that helps you in your planning.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Brian! I have heard comment after comment of high praises about your performances at the festival and the Audubon dinner. And of course, I already knew that! It was delightful to see you again and to hear your wonderful stories. Best regards!

    Visit Brians website at:
    http://www.foxtalesint.com/

    ReplyDelete
  5. Beautiful, beautiful! Looks like the weather had improved for the festival.
    I am glad that you know that the Hooded Crane is among the ones in flight. I kept thinking and who knows, maybe I am right...in the hundreds of images that I took, just maybe in one of them is the Hooded Crane, and just maybe a few Whooping Cranes too...never know~ Glad it all went so well~

    ReplyDelete
  6. Vickie...that is a perfect spot for water birds. Never been in that area but it would be exciting to see all those beautiful birds in one place.I see the Whooping crane migration is about as frustrating as it can be. Let us hope they can soon get on their way.All I can say for these folks is they have the patience of Job!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Love those shots of the Sandhill Cranes taking off Vickie. The sound of an event like that must be one of the sweetest sounds a person could ever experience.

    I have only heard the vocalizations of small flocks flying over my home like I did this morning. Just that alone lifted my spirits and increased my heart rate, talk about increased health benefits from wildlife watching!

    I truly appreciate all you have done and all you do for the Sandhill Cranes. May we keep seeing them and hearing their prehistoric calls for generations to come!

    ReplyDelete

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