by Chester McConnell

The Whooping Crane Conservation Association wishes Operation Migration, Florida, Louisiana, International Crane Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and all of our citizen supporters a Whooper Happy New Year. We hope for continued success of the several whooping crane programs. All our combined efforts are essential to help reach the goals described in the International Recovery Plan for the Whooping Crane.

Each private organization and agency has its own program but another very important element to the success of all programs is the tremendous contributions of the private citizens. They assist us in many ways including moral support, contributions of dollars, spreading the message and reporting observations. I want to give recognition to a special group of citizens who observe whoopers and take the time to report their sightings.

The Whooping Crane Conservation Association’s web site includes a “Report A Sighting” section where anyone can let us know about their observations of whooping cranes. We receive reports from many states and several provinces in Canada. While the vast majority of the reports are accurate a few actually turn out to be other large white birds with black wing tips (such as wood storks, white pelicans, snow geese, white ibis) or sand hill cranes. Mostly those who report their sightings have first gone to our web page “Identification” section to convince themselves that they have made a correct identification.

During the past year we have received about 130 reports of whooping crane sightings.  About 100 reports involved birds from the Aransas/Wood Buffalo (Western) flock. These reports came from persons in 7 central states and 2 Canadian provinces. And about 30 were sightings of cranes from the Operation Migration (Eastern) program. These reports came from 12 eastern states. If a report seems questionable, we discuss the observations with those who made the report. We believe that about 90 percent of the citizen reports are accurate.

The information received is useful in monitoring the migration of the cranes and determining the locations of some of the individuals at a point in time. Of course some of the cranes are counted more than once because they move often during migration.

An added benefit from the citizen spotters is that some of them send us interesting  photos and videos of their observations. We recently received an interesting video and some unusual photos from one of those wonderful people who report their observations of whooping cranes to us. I requested and received permission from Cindy P….. to share with you her video and photos of whooping cranes on her property in Georgia. Her email description of her experience follows:

“Hi Chester,
Of course you may use any of the photos/audio that I shared with you for your website.

On December 17, 2012 at about 7:30 am, one pair of cranes arrived near our 3 acre pond.  They grazed and walked about the property and within the next hour another pair of cranes appeared.  I grabbed my camera and lenses along with my iphone and headed towards the pond.  The four birds casually walked around the pond nibbling here and there.  They walked all the way up towards the pine trees where I was able to photograph them using a telephoto lens.  I was careful not to get too close to them (you can see in the audio/video how far away they were) so that I wouldn’t scare them off.  They continued calling and browsing around for a couple of hours.  I was ecstatic!”

“The next two days, the cranes came in and stayed for about thirty minutes before they flew due south.  I have to say that they were absolutely gorgeous and I only wish I could have gotten closer.  I took a great photo of them flying away.  I live about 2 hours from St. Marks, Florida.  I think these birds belonged to the flock that migrates that way each year.  Hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I did making them.  Merry Christmas to all….
Cindy P…. GA

To observe Cindy’s video click on the following:   https://www.dropbox.com/s/hei3j65ty422v5k/WhoopCranesCalling.MOV
Several of Cindy’s photos are pasted below. Enjoy.

Whooping cranes in pines.
Photo by Cindy P…., GA, 12-17-2012

Whooping cranes (3) in pines.
Photo by Cindy P…,  GA, 12-17-2012

Being very catious. 12-17-2012

Migrating on south. 12-17-2012


Now, you can enjoy more whooper photos from more of our citizen reporters by clicking on the fol;lowing link: https://x37deb.p3cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Whooper-photos-8-for-web-article-11-29-124.pdf