Heading Home

With a full month left on the calendar until the official start of spring, it appears some of the Whooping Cranes in the EMP are eager to begin heading home to Wisconsin.

Craniacs Shelly Taliaferro and Cathy Fouche are on an epic road trip that began Saturday morning in Indiana. They made it to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge near Decatur, Alabama just in time to see thousands of Sandhill Cranes and 10 Whooping Cranes head off to roost.

Sandhill cranes as seen from the observation tower at Wheeler NWR. Photo: C. Fouche

Here are some of the Whoopers Shelly and Cathy found late afternoon on Saturday near the Refuge…

Seven Whooping Cranes forage along the edge of a pond before settling down for the night. Photo: C. Fouche

Cathy reports the next day there were perhaps half the number of Sandhill cranes still visible from the viewing blind and remote tracking data indicates some of the Whoopers also began heading north.

A hit from female crane #10-15 confirms she left on Sunday, February 18th and made it to Hopkins County, Kentucky by early evening. She is very likely traveling with her mate #4-13 and I’m anxious to see where this pair returns to in Wisconsin as late last year, they appeared to have established a territory fairly close to White River Marsh in Green Lake County. 

While Whoopers aren’t considered to be of breeding age until they are 5 years old, it’s not unheard of for a 3 year old female to successfully breed so this pair may just have a nest this spring!

Huge thanks to Cathy Fouche and Shelly Taliaferro for sharing their road trip with us!

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  1. Andrea Johnson February 21, 2018 4:26 pm

    I am not surprised by this early departure. A humpback whale has been feeding in Auke Bay, Alaska. Humpbacks are not suppose to be in AK waters until May. Migration departures in the past have been weeks earlier than normal, and it appears this year is no different…it’s worse. These changes are one of the most significant arguments for climate change.

  2. Patricia D February 20, 2018 4:39 pm

    Goodness, I can’t believe any would be possibly heading back already.! I keep thinking I will read aabout another one or two who made it to Fla or Alabama or such. Sheesh !!

  3. Mindy February 20, 2018 12:35 pm

    Oh wow!! Early traveling for the Whoopers on their way back! I am so glad Shelly and Cathy got to see them at Wheeler and Cathy was able to share these pictures with all of us…thanks Cathy! Exciting and great news! Don’t blame 10-15 for sticking with 4-13. She started out scared of so much and he is a strong, handsome caretaker!

  4. Catherine Wohlfeil February 20, 2018 11:47 am

    This is wonderful news!!

  5. Meg Lunnum February 20, 2018 10:45 am

    Maybe Whoopers are more accurate than Phil the groundhog as to when Spring is coming!

    • Heather Ray February 20, 2018 12:08 pm

      I think you’re on to something Meg!

  6. Maggie Turk February 20, 2018 9:22 am

    Thank you Cathy and Shelly. What a sight to see that many whoopers together in the Eastern Flyway. Hopefully they will have a good breeding year so more of us can have the pleasure of seeing them like that.

  7. Cheryl Murphy February 20, 2018 9:18 am

    Thanks to all for the pictures and updates. Nice to have good news on this very icy Wisconsin morning.