Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Whooping It Up

During our Wisconsin adventures, it came time to find Gordon his first ever Whooping Crane.  A great place to see these birds is at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

Whooping Crane
On a rainy day, we drove the wet roads and had killer views of a nesting pair foraging along the waterways. You may notice the tracking devices on the legs.  This is an endangered bird which is very much like our California Condor in Arizona.  It is tracked and monitored across the US during migration.  

But unlike the Kirtland's Warbler, it doesn't have the same type of security and monitoring because there are two separate populations(the Western and Eastern flocks) in the US. 

And like the California Condor, these cranes almost went extinct.  Thanks to conservation efforts, their population has slowly grown over the decades.  With continued support, perhaps this crane will one day cloud the skies like the Sandhill Crane! 

And what's a place without an awesome visitor's center?  I really liked their set up here.  Great displays, comfortable furniture in front of big windows with bird feeders, a boardwalk nearby, friendly park rangers and a gift shop!

I snapped a shot of this blanket and kinda wished I had purchased it.  But I think it was up for auction so I just snapped a shot of this beautiful quilt work.  I did however purchase a stuffed Whooping Crane for my office:)  In the background, my Dad chats away with Gordon.  My sister looks like she wants to fall asleep:)  I realized that on this trip, my parents are both night owls.  Me on the other hand?  Not so much.  I'm an early riser.  Staying up past 9 PM is way too late:)  

Anyhow, back to Necedah.  I had never been to this place.  But there were lots of great wildlife stops around the area!  So we toured Necedah and surrounding towns. Restaurants were not so good. I wish we would have packed a lunch for this trip. We were excited about trying out the Little Crane Cafe but were turned away without a reason. We were a little bummed out.  The owner has since apologized.  Part of the birding fun is trying out new places to eat. And that did not happen on this day. 

Indigo Bunting
While at the refuge, we had beautiful views of Indigo Buntings and a Yellow-throated Vireo.

Yellow-throated Vireo
The vireo can be tricky to spot since it likes to hang out high in the canopy of trees.  We heard plenty in Wisconsin, but I think I only saw it once!  And here is that one time:)

Another tricky bird that is very vocal but difficult to see is the Least Flycatcher.  It wasn't a lifer for me but it was the first time I had a decent visual of the bird.  

Least Flycatcher
And of course a photo:)  Its' vocalizations are fast and make it an easy flycatcher to ID. 

We headed to the Buena Vista Grasslands afterwards.  While the heat and humidity were a bit intense, we had a great time finding lots of wonderful birds. 

How beautiful is this Grasshopper Sparrow below?  What a treat to see this bird out in the open!  Usually they are secretive and hiding in the grasses!  In Arizona, they are very tricky!

Grasshopper Sparrow
It's interesting to note that this subspecies of Grasshopper Sparrow is lighter with a bit more yellow color tone.  In Arizona, our subspecies of Grasshopper Sparrow is darker, streakier and richer in color. 

The Arizona Grasshopper Sparrow-from a banding project two years ago

^^The above pic shows the dark colors of the Arizona Grasshopper Sparrow.  The pic below is the more yellow and lighter Wisconsin version. 

After the grasslands, we went to the Sandhill Wildlife area to finish off our birding adventures.  What a lovely area!  Although, there were plenty of ticks and deer flies to keep us on our toes! 

Black-billed Cuckoo
These pics were exciting but I lost a lot of blood to get them.  Hey, I guess that's part of the fun.  What's not part of the fun?  Leaving your car windows open for all the bugs to enter. 

Veery cool!
It was exciting to see a Veery up close.  It's not everyday we get to see these birds. 

One of the warblers that I didn't know much about, the Golden-winged Warbler, was present in this location in good numbers.  It was a lifer for both of us and a very good looking bird.  This warbler is in trouble due to habitat loss and the hybridization with Blue-winged Warblers.  If you look closely at the pic, you'll see a band around the bird's leg.  It's another warbler of concern. 

Golden-winged Warbler
We had a successful time out.  Gordon found both rare birds, the Kirtland's Warbler and Whooping Cranes.  When I go birding, I always have a strategy in mind.  We find the rare or endemic birds first.  Everything else will fall into place.  News came to us at a late hour, but apparently, a Whooping Crane was only ten minutes from my parent's house!  What??!!  So we drove to the location.  Sure enough!  There it was!  

I leave you with one of our nesting Whooping Cranes at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

And if you're in Texas or going to Texas, you need to check out this video on the Whooping Cranes(the Western Flock).  Until next time......


  1. There is the wild flock of whoopers which nest in Wood Buffalo NWA in Canada. It travels much the same route as the conservation reliant flock adjudicated by USFWS and WCEP. But it is truly wild. Too bad you didn't get a chance to stop at International Crane Foundation and bird Pine Island Important Bird Area http://www.aldoleopold.org/Programs/iba.shtml. My spouse & I were very fortunate to be taken into Necedah by George Archibald & Richard Urbanic of USFWS (ret) in 2007. It is an area rich in wildlife as well as the nesting whoopers. And, BTW, the whooper in Manty Cnty has now moved on to Calumet cnty (not sure where, we haven't looked). Giving everyone lucky enough to know a show. Found a merlin today at Kohler Andreas State Park. :-)

    1. I stopped at the International Crane Foundation 4 or 5 years ago? It was awesome. Thanks for the info about the wild flock of whoopers. And also thanks for the info on Pine Island. There are so many places to keep a person busy.

      That crane sure has a mind of its own:) Hope people get to see it wherever the bird is. And congrats on the Merlin! That is exciting. Cute little birds. And darker than the ones we get here in Arizona during the winter months.

  2. Loved seeing the Whooping Cranes with their young and that was a favulous shots of the Grasshopper Sparrow

    1. Thank you Margaret! I LOVE sparrows! And that was a real treat to see in the wild!

  3. Wonder how more widespread the Cranes were on the eastern migration route before agriculture drained so much wet prairie in Minnesota ? At least judging from your map.

    BTW, next selfie request is that you are accompanied by the Olsen Twins on each arm.

    1. Oh gods:) That would actually be kind of funny. This need for selfies is proof that the work I do is my own and I've been finding people need a face to go with the writer. I've been having a lot of people visit from out of state and country to go birding so there's that part. Not really into selfies but they definitely help tell the story.

      So I've wondered the same things about the prairies in MN, WI, etc. They were a very common bird once back in the early 20th century until people would hunt them for the feather trade! Only 19 were left and most were females so to even have a population today is a miracle. I'm with you on the habitat degradation. There is a lot of it that is preserved in that part of the country but I will say that a lot of the land is shrinking more and more. It's complicated but there are very visible signs that wild open prairie, etc is disappearing.....and the grassland birds are facing a decline because of the loss. The land is already stressed:(

  4. I guess you have lots of bird shots this trip. But i pity the crane with tags on both legs, i think they are nuisance to it. If only it can complain.

  5. Great post and photos Chris - love the Whooping Cranes. So many wonderful sightings in this post :)

  6. You have lots of great birds! It's interesting that there are different species in the same country. Your stuffed crane is cute!

  7. I go every season to find whooping cranes. Here in Texas of course. I'd love to witness the breeding displays and the nesting tho. Maybe some day.

    You managed to have a good trip with so many birds seen. I love 'em all....and enjoyed reading your narration. Yes...oh, yes...I'd love that quilt too!!

    Thanks for adding your link to I'd Rather B Birdin' this week Chris. [I'm in my personal blog admin, but wanted to stop by this morning to view your fantastic travel birding expedition!!]

  8. So many beautiful birds. What a great post!


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