This morning one of the first emails I looked at when I arrived at work was from Beth Madden, wildlife biologist at Medicine Lake NWR. It was just one line that said:
"the crane is still here if you want to see it!"
That started to hurt. Then after I replied that I was half tempted to make the drive she wrote back to tell me that it indeed had been in the same field on Sunday and I had driven right past it. That did it. I called Dad and coerced him into going to Medicine Lake and taking me with him. I haven't chased a bird in a long time and it was fun heading out with Dad to see if we could make the two hour trip before the bird left.
We did. We stopped at the headquarters to get the latest info from Beth and found the crane had moved from the field to a small bay on the east side of the refuge and was hanging out about a quarter mile from the road with a bunch of Tundra Swans. We arrived where Beth said it would be and there it was. We got good looks at the bird as it moved around a bit. Then it tucked it's leg up and it's head under and joined the Tundra Swans for an afternoon siesta.
Click on the image to enlarge (you may need it on this one)
Although we were close enough to the bird to get good looks at it, it wasn't the best photography situation. It could have been worse if we had arrived a bit later though. Then I could have pointed out that the white sleeping bird in the center of the photo has longer legs than the other sleeping white blobs in the photo. There were no bands on this bird and I am not sure how many of the remaining Whooping Cranes are unbanded.
This all makes me wonder about my longspur hunt last weekend. If I was unable to notice a 6 foot white bird in a stubble field, it leads me to question my ability to find a very small rather nondescript bird in a stubble field. Not bad for a trained wildlife observer huh. More photos and stories of other birds from our trip tomorrow.