Sunday, December 18, 2011
On December 13th a hooded crane was found at the Hiwassee wildlife refuge northwest of Chattanooga, TN. Because of where hooded cranes breed (southern siberia) and winter (Japan and Korea), no previously reported hooded cranes have ever been accepted as wild birds in the ABA area, but one was seen in 2010 in Idaho, and another in Nebraska this past spring. Cranes are such magnificent birds, and this bird was only 430 driving miles from my house, so I had been monitoring reports on it all week.
Yesterday morning when I read that it had been seen again around 8 AM, I jumped in my truck and made the drive over to the refuge. I arrived about 3:30 PM, and soon after the hooded crane walked out into a large grassy area. In the photo just above you can see the hooded crane standing all by itself in the center of the picture (click on photo to enlarge). The photo below was taken by David Kirsche on 12/15. Over the next hour the bird was visible for probably 30-45 minutes. Unfortunately it was about 400 yards away from the viewing location, but even with binocs you could see its distinct markings, and with a scope you had very good views of it. There was one 10 year old boy who kept asking for looks thru my scope.
In addition to the hooded crane, there was an immature (first year) whooping crane mixed in with the 1000-2000 sandhill cranes. The big question is whether the hooded crane will continue to stay at Hiwassee with all the sandhills, or will the flock move further south for the winter. Even though there is no certainty that this bird will be accepted as a wild crane, John Vanderpoel, who is birding at Adak thru today, is hoping to get to TN by mid week to see it. John has not posted on his blog yet as to how he did yesterday at Adak. Hopefully he has picked up at least whiskered auklet and whooper swan. Stay tuned!