Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Whooping Crane

Our plan, after leaving the Golden-cheeked Warblers of Fort Hood, was to spend a couple of days exploring Austin, Texas. But Austin was hosting thousands of tourists for their South-by-Southwest music and film festival, so Erika and I headed for two days at Rockport.

Along the way we visited the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, famous for its wintering Whooping Cranes. On a previous visit we had ridden on one of the tourist birding boats, the best way to see the cranes (see my blog post of 6 July 2010). (If you have never seen Whooping Cranes, we recommend the tour boat. Many years ago we visited Aransas and missed the cranes since we could not afford the tour.) Aside from our success with the cranes, we were somewhat disappointed in the refuge, which was dry after suffering several years of record-breaking drought.

Despite our bypassing the boat tour, we were successful in seeing cranes. We found three cranes that grazed in the marsh near a refuge crane observation deck. As we walked along a nature trail, we came very close to this solo crane, apparently practicing its dancing moves.

Notice that our crane is not banded. Apparently the wild flock has not been banded since 1988. Only older birds remain among banded birds. The International Crane Foundation, however, continues to band Whooping Cranes released from their propagation flock. Thus the sighting of banded Whoopers gives observers some indication of their origin.

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