Festival of the Cranes returns to Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Jan. 11Published 5:35pm Monday, December 30, 2013
A day of nature walks, live raptors, and refuge tours is planned when the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge holds its second annual Festival of the Cranes Jan. 11, 2014.
The celebration of Sandhill Cranes and Whooping Cranes will bring together experienced birders and those who would like to learn more about birding and other wildlife.
Over 12,000 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, the Festival of the Cranes kicks off at 6 a.m. with a sunrise breakfast in the Visitor Center classroom. Following breakfast, Re-fuge 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. Breakfast cost is $5 per person and participants are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes and to bring binoculars and a camera.
Throughout the day, the enclosed Wildlife Observation Building will offer views of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, along with Whooping Cranes, ducks, geese, raptors, and maybe a bald eagle. There will be bleachers and spotting scopes available along with volunteers and staff members on hand to answer questions.
At 10:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., Joan Garland, education outreach coordinator for the International Crane Foundation, will speak on the efforts to restore a migratory flock of Whopping Cranes to eastern North America.
Additional activities in-clude showings of Hope Takes Wing, a film by and about Operation Migra-tion chronicling the history of the Whooping Crane, and two presentations by the Auburn University’s Southeastern Raptor Center. from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There will be a pizza lunch with proceeds benefiting the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Assoc-iation. The daylong event concludes at 5 p.m.
The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is located at 3121 Visitor Center Road in Decatur. For more information on the Festival of the Cranes, visit www-.friendsofwheelerrefuge.org or call Teresa Adams, supervisory ranger for Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, at 256-350-6639.