Archived Story

A celebration of cranes planned for Wheeler

Published 7:00pm Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge will hold its first Festival of the Cranes, a one-day event filled with up close viewings, workshops, live raptors, and nature walks, on Jan. 12, kicking off a year-long celebration of Wheeler’s 75th anniversary.

The celebration of Sandhill Cranes and Whooping Cranes will bring together experienced birders and those who would like to learn more about birding while providing opportunities to learn about the Sandhill Cranes and other wildlife that calls the Refuge home.

Over 11,000 Sandhill Cranes along with several pairs of Whooping Cranes spend the winter each year at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Hosted by the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association and sponsored by ‘Toray’ Carbon Fibers of America, the Festival of the Cranes kicks off at 6 a.m. with a Sunrise Breakfast in the Visitor Center classroom. Following breakfast, Refuge Manager Dwight Cooley will lead an early morning birding walk to see cranes and other waterfowl arrive in the fields to begin their day of feeding and loafing. A $5 donation is suggested and participants are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes and to bring binoculars and a camera.

The enclosed Wildlife Observation Building, complete with bleachers and spotting scopes, will offer views of thousands of Sandhill cranes, along with whooping cranes, ducks, geese, raptors, and maybe a bald eagle. Volunteers and staff members will be on hand to answer questions.

Acclaimed author, storyteller, and naturalist Brian “Fox” Ellis will be the special guest and featured speaker and will be presenting his Adventures with Audubon.

At 9 a.m., he will host Bird is the Word writing workshop. In this participatory workshop, participants will learn tips for effective journaling, how to use poetry to help write clearer and more exciting essays, and how to turn field notes into publishable articles.

At 11:30 a.m., he presents Bird Tales: Stories and Songs from Many Cultures, a blend of his lifelong love for birds and traditional folktales from different cultures. Through poetry and song, legends and facts, a celebration of all things crane is planned for 2:15 p.m. when Ellis presents Crane Tales Around the World. At 4 p.m., Ellis (as John James Audubon) concludes the day-long event with a recap of his tales from his travels and travails.

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