Whooping Crane Wonders

by Ellie Tayler | Oct 1, 2022 | 0 comments

Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane. Photo © Dreamstime.com.

Dawn broke clear and cold on a gorgeous autumn day. The date was October 27, 2021, and it would be a day to remember. My siblings, my mom, and I drove 1½ hours in the early morning to the Horicon National Wildlife refuge in Wisconsin. The marsh is astonishing, the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States. It’s a lovely spot to bird, hike, and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, due to its diverse landscapes. Lush green hills, waving cattails, and sunshiny woods make this place truly unique.

On this particular hiking and birding day, we were in for a whirlwind of a surprise that only God could have planned! We started our escapade at the floating board walk, a long extension of wood roped together right on top of a watery section of the marsh.

Stepping out onto the walk, we relished the quiet, sparkling stillness of the morning as we looked from the rippling water to the azure sky to the many diverse birds. Canada Geese, Sandhill Cranes, Northern Harriers, and about four hundred Mallards fussed, fluttered, and frolicked in the cool air and water. As we rambled along, listening and looking at all the wonders, we were delighted at God’s complex design in all His creation.

We finished the boardwalk and headed into the emerald-hued woods to complete the short loop. Coming out of the enchanting forest, we strolled along the side of the road heading for our car. Abruptly we heard an eerie, screechy cry like that of a skidding tire, coming from the direction of the marsh on the left. My older brother swiftly identified the sound as the call of the Whooping Crane pair that resides in Horicon.

We took off back toward the board walk for all we were worth. We had previously only seen the pair once before, and then only a fleeting glimpse as they soared over our heads. If we could see them up close, this was going to be an immense moment.

We stopped, panting, on a raised platform overlooking the marsh and gasped. There, placidly feasting on wetland vegetation, were the exquisite, snow-white birds. Red-capped, with a dusky bill and glistening yellow eyes, they are about my favorite birds I’ve ever seen.

We stood in admiration as they preened and ate, so peaceful in their native habitat. We watched them for awhile soaking up their stunning plumage until they finally flew away. Our eyes followed their flight as they swept over the Wisconsin marshland into the endless blue sky.

Whooping Cranes are one of America’s rarest and most majestic birds, and there are few places left in the world where they can be seen.

That day was one of my favorite days of my life. My family feels so blessed that God chose to give it to us, and we hope that others will get to see Whooping Cranes in their native environment for many years to come.

Whooping Crane in marsh
Whooping Crane. Photo © Dreamstime.com.

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