Sunday, January 8, 2012

TN Sandhill Crane Festival Celebrates Three Crane Species

Make plans to join us at the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival, January 14th and 15th at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge and celebrate three crane species!  
Photo credit: Mike Nelson (see links below).  A Greater Sandhill Crane flying over the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.

The Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge has had a rare visitor that has stirred excitement in the bird-watching world.  A Hooded crane, native to Asia, has found its way to the refuge, located near Dayton and Birchwood, TN, along with thousands of sandhill cranes and the endangered Whooping cranes that visit the refuge in the winter months to rest and feed.
Photo credit:  Mike Nelson.   Hooded crane (dark gray with white neck) with sandhill cranes at Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee. 

As of January 7th, more than 2388 visitors, representing nine countries and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and 40 states and the District of Columbia, have visited the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge since the Hooded crane was first reported on December 13th.   
As many as eight endangered Whooping cranes (above) have been present on the refuge at one time during this migration and wintering season, and usually one or more is visible from the viewing platform.  The presence of wintering Whooping cranes is attributable to the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership's (WCEP's) two re-introduction programs:  Operation Migration's ultralight-led migration, and the Direct Autumn Release program.  

Whooping crane juveniles must learn their migration route from their parents. Beginning in 2001, Operation Migration, a founding WCEP partner, has led groups of juvenile whooping cranes each fall on their first southerly migration journey through Tennessee to wintering grounds in Florida. These cranes then find their way back to their fledging grounds in Wisconsin in the spring, unassisted by humans, and migrate on their own the next fall. The beautiful cinnamon and white juvenile whooping cranes you see on the refuge have been captive-reared by the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin and released in the Direct Autumn Release program.  They have arrived at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge by following another more experienced Whooping crane or joining a flock of migrating sandhill cranes.  
Photo credit:  Mike Nelson.  Two juvenile Whooping cranes (cinnamon and white) and one mature whooping crane foraging and preening with sandhill cranes at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.  

The Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge is a major staging area for migrating cranes in the east where they rest and feed along their migration journey.  Staging areas are important stop-over sights where cranes replenish nutrients, add weight, and come in contact with other cranes for potential pairing.  This is especially important for our eastern Whooping crane population which now numbers around 104 birds.  

The Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival presents a wonderful opportunity to learn about birds and see the rare occurrence of three species of cranes foraging together in a staging wetland.  There is no other place in North America where you can see three species of cranes together, and no other place in the world where three crane species will include the endangered Whooping crane.  Add to this, the treat of seeing thousands of eastern sandhill cranes that were once on the brink of extinction, and you have a rare opportunity for winter bird viewing that you won't want to miss.
Above, you see the cover of the Discover Birds Activity Book, illustrated and authored by yours truly, as a special activity for children who attend the festival. The twelve-page booklet is sponsored by the Tennessee Ornithological Society (TOS) and was coordinated and produced by TOS member and co-chair of the festival, Cyndi Routledge.  It contains fun information about wintering birds, images for children to color and a crossword puzzle to challenge young (and adult) minds.  You will find this book at the TOS exhibit table at the festival!

The festival is co-sponsored by TOS, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), and the Barbara J. Mapp Foundation, and is free to the public.  TWRA personnel will be available to answer questions about the refuge and the wildlife conservation work of the Agency. TOS members will be present at the viewing area to share their birding scopes and their knowledge of the birds you will find there, including bald eagles and many ducks and geese.
I am one of those TOS members and will also be available to answer questions on both days of the festival, so find me and say "hello".  I would love to meet you!

Links and Resources:

Mike Nelson's Flicker site with Hooded crane video and photo stream
Morgan Simmons Jan 10 article Knoxville News Sentinel:  Rare Crane Joins Hiwassee Flock
Make your plans to attend the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival
Directions to Birchwood and the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge
Sandhill Crane Festival Schedule of Events
Tennessee Ornithological Society
Tennessee Watchable Wildlife on Sandhill Cranes
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency:  TN Sandhill Crane Festival
Hooded Crane is Season's Gift by Marcia Davis
Times Free Press--Rare Hooded Crane Seen
International Crane Foundation on the Hooded Crane

At my companion blog, Vickie's Sketchbook:  Sandhill Cranes and Art

Top Crane Posts on this blog:  Hooded Crane at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in TN
Crane Magic--Three Crane Species at Hiwassee

Whooping Crane Reintroduction links:
The 2011 ultralight migration class is currently grounded in Alabama due to an FAA technical investigation.  We hope this issue will resolve soon so the juvenile Whooping cranes can continue their southern migration.  Stay up to date on the migration progress by visiting Operation Migration's field journal.
Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership--Direct Autumn Release Program
International Crane Foundation
On this blog:  Whooping Crane Family Series

Linked to Bird World Wednesday at The Pine River Review
Linked to Bird Photography Weekly at Bird


  1. If only I could still use commercial aircraft, I'd be there like a shot. A wonderful post.
    How about linking it to World Bird Wednesday this week so more birders can enjoy it?

  2. Your blogspot is a great source of information about what's happening at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. To be the only place in the world to see these 3 Cranes is great for TN.

  3. Wow! Great photos of the cranes, Vickie! I love the reflections in that one photo!

  4. I wish this festival was closer, I would be there too. I would love to see these beautiful cranes. Thanks for sharing them now. Great photos and post.

  5. I think it's great that a stray bird can bring so many people together.
    Such lovely birds.

  6. A wonderful post to read and lovely images.
    I have just had a lovely browse around your blog.

  7. What an important post. The story of the reintroduction of Whooping cranes into our skies and wetlands is heroic in my opinion. The world should be paying attention to this intriguing endeavour to preserve this species especially when one of these 100 or so remaining birds was recently shotgunned out of the sky. I hope to one day be privileged enough to see these birds in your great region and beyond. Blessings to all involved in this work!

  8. A wonderful post Vickie and welcome to World Bird Wednesday. I hope you enter a post every Wednesday!

    This festival is SO important to the Eastern population of Whooping Cranes and Sandhill Cranes as well. I hope the TWRA is taking special note of all the folks attracted to Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge to see live cranes. You couldn't have asked for a better time for a vagrant Hooded Crane to show up either.

    I trust you are having a wonderful time! I will see a Whooping Crane someday, probably in Texas. Keep up the good work Vickie, and thanks!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014
Photo courtesy of Jody Stone

Bird-banding at Seven Islands

Bird-banding at Seven Islands
Photo courtesy of Karen Wilkenson

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014
Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Expeditions

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014
Photo courtesy of Wendy Pitts Reeves

Me and Denali--2012

Me and Denali--2012
Photo courtesy of Bob King

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.
Sendivogius (1750)

Your Uncapped Creativity...

Your Uncapped Creativity...
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." ----the great dancer, Martha Graham