Friday, September 24, 2010

September 24, 2010 Whooping Crane search a success!

I arrived in Saskatoon this morning and began my scouting for Whooping Cranes. There had been a group of cranes observed early during the week near Muskiki Lake. Driving around the area there was no sign of Whoopers but 1000's of Snow Geese and 100's of Sandhill Cranes. The rolling landscape made it more difficult to see any distance and any large white bird could hide easily. After an hour of scanning and driving back roads I stopped to view a small flock of Sandhills in flight and spotted a number of large white birds in a recently harvested field. I quickly assembled my scope which was still in my suitcase and watch 6 adult Whooping Cranes feeding. As I scanned the area more popped up and after a while I was up to 36 Whooping Cranes! Any amazing sight, 27 adult and 9 young.

A distant view of Whooping cranes near Muskiki Lake, SK

The cranes were very active feeding and interacting.


Nicole MacP said...

Awesome!! What a great experience that must have been!

Wayne Vanwyck said...

After searching the backroads of Saskatchewan for 6 days, asking everyone we met if they knew where the whoopers were, finally, we met someone who knew what we were talking about and had heard of a sighting very close to where we were on our first day! It was 4:30 pm and they said it was about 2 hours drive to the north. Sunset was about 7:00 so that didn't leave much room for error, but we decided to go check it out. The directions were, go north on Highway 2 to Muskiki Lake. Just as you go over the hill and the lake comes in sight (about a mile off to the right) you'll see a small pull-off to the right that looks like a farm lane. Pull in there, scan the horizon with your binoculars and scope and you might get lucky.

Off we set with a sense of hope. When the lake came in sight, we weren't sure what constituted a "pull-off" or for that matter, whether or not we had the right lake in sight. Right now, because of the wet summer and fall, Saskatchewan is full of lakes and ponds - many of which shouldn't really be there. We stopped and looked. Nothing. We went back the road a bit and saw an abandoned farm house with a lane that looked to be used mostly by farm equipment. We went in hoping we wouldn't be charged with trespassing. The sun was beginning to set. We had about 15 minutes before it sunk below the horizon.

Once again I pulled out Carol's scope and set it up on the tripod. Dawna, Carol, Kathy and Marj scanned with their binoculars and I started to scan with the scope. Nothing. Then Dawna said, "Look at that little pond to the left of the hydro pole." I turned the scope in that direction and there they were. It was unmistakeable! Huge white birds with black wing-tips doing their hopping dance. At first I could only see a couple but in a twist of good luck, as the sun went down, the sky lit up with a diffused rather than harsh light and they were easier to see. They were too far away to get photos, but they were unmistakable. We counted at least 30!

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