Friday, March 2, 2012

Hey! What's That Big White Bird?

Friday, March 2, 2012
While guiding a field trip of bird photographers last weekend at Goose Pond Fish & Wildlife Area near Linton, IN, we had a special treat. We enjoyed a "Hey! What's that BIG WHITE BIRD?" moment.

Amid the thousands of migrating sandhill cranes were a few whooping cranes! During the weekend we saw 16 whooping cranes total—a significant percentage of the world population of this critically endangered bird. (There are about 600 whooping cranes total counting both wild and captive birds).

We were very careful to give the whooping cranes plenty of space. And they rewarded us with wonderful looks, if slightly distant. But that's what spotting scopes are for, right?

We watched the whoopers foraging in the wetlands.

We saw them in flight, and on Sunday, we even saw a few of them engage in some courtship dancing, which I'd never seen before in this species. To see this many whooping cranes in one place in one day, outside of their wintering areas in Texas and Florida, is really notable.

As the final field trip wound down on Sunday, we had one more BIG WHITE BIRD surprise. While watching northern harriers, rough-legged hawks, red-tailed hawks, and a young bald eagle coursing and soaring over a wet meadow, one of our group called out a flock of large white birds approaching us from the north.

It was a flock of 16 American white pelicans, newly arrived from the points farther south. The spring's first sighting at Goose Pond. And a great way to end the weekend, with the promise of spring's coming.


On March 2, 2012 at 8:55 AM Laurence Butler said...

Those are great moments. The joy and excitement of discovery is very palpable. Any and every bird is something wonderful and new.

On March 2, 2012 at 11:59 AM Jenny said...

Great pictures!

On March 2, 2012 at 10:41 PM Nathaniel Covert said...

Does this mean we should expect the Whooping Cranes to be back in the Baraboo-area soon?

On March 3, 2012 at 5:07 AM Angie in T.O. said...

I've never seen an American White Pelican, it's on my "must see" list. One day....