Sunday we had a chance to go with friends on a tour at the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge. Run by both the US Geological Survey and the Fish and Wildlife Service it is home to lots of research on how to protect the nation's wildlife, one of those being the whooping crane. May is whooping crane month and there was a special tour back into the innards of the refuge, through lots of special gates, to learn about whooping cranes and see two of them.
So far in April and May there have been 14 young to hatch. These are tended by volunteers who dress in special outfits so the young don't imprint on humans. The young are caged next to adult cranes.
The refuge is on land that was once the Snowden Plantation. This house was one of the original structures minus the two extensions and in recent times has been used for offices. Since the earthquake in our area a number of years ago the building was damaged and funds have not been appropriated to fix the structure.
Ponds were built for two purposes: to provide habitat for water birds and other wildlife and as a water source for fire fighting.
A view of the pens where birds being studied are kept.
Ken, a volunteer, is one of many who dress up to take the cranes for walks. No, that isn't a crane next to him, its a pointer they use to represent the head of a crane. He's holding a wooden model of an egg, too. These are placed in the nests of cranes when they remove the eggs to an incubator.
It was very difficult to photograph the two cranes we were allowed to view. There were at least two or three layers of fencing between us. This pair have congenital flaws so are not allowed to breed.
The male's wings are partially clipped so he couldn't fly properly to mate with the female.
This turtle was outside the fence trying to get in. He was big!
Here's the group on the tour. Note the fencing, electrified! Predators kept out are foxes, turtles, snakes, raccoons, bald eagles, etc.
We could hear the whoop from the pens where the breeding pairs were and where the hatchlings were kept. It's quite a distinctive sound. No one is allowed back there with them unless dressed like a crane.
Here are photos of photos in the Welcome Center.
Cranes that live in Wisconsin migrate and so some of the young that are hatched here are introduced to the sound of the ultralight even before they hatch then are transported to WI in boxes where they are taught to migrate.
Ken told a story about teaching cranes how to wade in the water. The young ones were timid about going very far into the small pond where they were. Ken then walked around the pond thinking the young ones would wade through to meet him. [He's their father figure dressed in his crane outfit.] But no, the young ones followed him around walking the edge of the pond like he did. Finally he ran as fast as he could around to the other side and the cranes then fled through the water to get to him as fast as they could. From then on they were not afraid of going deeper in the pond. Ken felt good that he had taught them something.
These are the crane outfits the volunteers wear.
Adult whooping cranes stand 5 feet tall and are the tallest North American bird. This is an endangered species that almost disappeared. It's only been with these efforts of the Fish and Wildlife Service that the population has been increasing.
Linked to Wild Bird Wednesday