Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Whooping Cranes of Lamar

The pair of whoopers had taken over the fenced field and were not going to give up the ground to any lesser bird, especially the sandhill cranes that stood nearby. Every now and then a sandhill would try to sneak into the feed but the male whooper would lift his wings and flare at the trespassing sandhill.
The threat display worked as the sandhill would fly a short distance away, but only a short distance, before it landed and stood vigil looking for another chance. Again and again it would try to work its way in, but the crimson top of the whooper would seem to redden as the magnificent bird would drive the sandhill away.
We had read in the Rockport newspaper of the desperation of the whoopers. That due to the low blue crab numbers several had moved into the town of Lamar, Texas, and could be seen along eighth street, but our previous attempt to spot them had been for naught. So as we drove along the shoreline, towards Big Tree, the large white wading birds couldn't possible be whoopers. Surprisingly they were and as as we parked at the canoe launch site they stood and napped, seemingly unconcerned with human presence.
To the west two other pairs were in a field and the story of their desperate search for food were all to obvious as the three pairs were in a small area. Each pair of whoopers normally takes and defends a territory of about 250 acres, but here were three pairs in a small part of the town.
We watched the wading pair preen themselves as they stood in the shallow water, before driving to the next pair, across from the Big Tree parking lot. They were working their way towards a small fresh water pond and seemed to ignore the feeding cattle.
The last pair captured most of our time as we watched them feed while keeping a vigilant eye on the sandhill interlopers. It was almost surreal to watch them be so close to the houses and we both felt somewhat helpless about their desperate plight.
A federal wildlife expert had been quoted in the Corpus Christi Times, and had told of a possible large die off of the whoopers, due to the lack of food. The flock was down about twenty some birds as the wildlife people had fond the remains of the dead birds last spring.
At least EL Nino has ended the Texas drought and the high water levels have brought the promise of an increase in blue crab numbers, but that's for next year. So we hope and pray that the birds will be able to survive the year and their long migration north to Canada. Such magnificence and such graceful beauty in Americas largest crane. Go whoopers! Clear skies.

No comments: