Friday, March 4, 2011

Whooping It Up

Since our last post, we have discovered a Mecca for Whooping Crane watching...and only 10 minutes from our RV park! There are locations on St. Charles Bay in Lamar frequented by two families of Whoopers and a number of other cranes and waterfowl. A couple of freshwater ponds and a pasture thoughtfully mowed by the resident cows make it an ideal crane gathering spot. It's good for photography, too, especially if you have a 500mm lens. Unfortunately, I have only a 300mm, so the quality of my images isn't what I would like. These will, however, give you a pretty good idea of what one can see every day.

This family of Whooping Cranes was among the first we saw in Lamar. They claim this pasture as part of their territory and will chase other cranes away if they intrude. The female of the pair is banded on her left leg. I was told that the blue sleeve she wears on her right leg contains a transmitter that beams back information about her location every 7 minutes so scientists can monitor her movements. Their offspring is almost as large as the parents. He (or she) migrated with them from Canada in the fall, and will return with the flock in a few weeks.

Earlier in the week while I was crane-watching, a group of 5 birds landed in the pasture. I think they are probably members of a cohort of young adults that have not yet selected mates. As I (and a number of other photographers and birders) watched, several birds began leaping into the air and flapping their wings. Since their migration north will begin in early April, it means the breeding season for these magnificent birds is just around the corner. It appears that these cranes were "leaping for love" to practice their mating rituals. (The cow grazing in the background seems unimpressed, as do the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks by the pond.)

(Since this post is rather long, I have broken it into two parts. Continue reading for the rest of our Whooping Crane stories and images.)

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