Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Whooping Crane Christmas

IMG_3900 This year my mother had an inspired idea to deal with the slow time between the morning gift exchange and Christmas dinner: a whooping crane tour. We bundled up and drove out to Rockport, Texas, and despite some initial hesitation when we learned we'd be on the boat for 3+ hours (the wind made it nose-freezingly-brisk, and my 14-month old nephew was with us), we boarded the Skimmer and headed out into the gray day. It was amazing. Our guide, Captain Jay, was genuinely excited about pointing out birds and sharing information, not just for the cranes, but for a peregrine falcon, a 37-year-old kite (a regular), and so many others. As for the whooping cranes, they're beautiful. And endangered. It's so strange to think that only 400 or so exist in the wild, and the majority of those winter half an hour from where I grew up. We saw two family groups (mother, father, juvenile), and a couple of adult groups. The shot above was one of the last of the day, when the sun finally broke through the clouds. IMG_3832 IMG_3837 Above: group of three adults, who did everything in sync IMG_3888 Above: this couple was the closest the boat got to observe, and one is banded and wearing some sort of transmitter. I also love that the other has an orange eye, instead of the normal golden. IMG_3730 IMG_3775 The mother and juvenile are part of the same family unit as the bird on the left in the photo above; he's the male, chasing off some interlopers. IMG_3749 IMG_3724 More of the same family group. Apparently the drought raised the salinity of the water, which in turn affected the cranes' main food source: blue crabs. Instead, the birds are having to spend much more time foraging for food with less protein. I have many photos of birds with their heads in the grass. And there are lots of other non-crane bird shots, but I'll save that for the next post.