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Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, United States
Week 6: Birds and Water
250-Flock of Whooping Cranes Spotted in New England!!
I’ve looked very carefully at many pictures of white, large birds with black-tipped wings and would swear on my grandmother’s grave I saw 250 – 275 Whooping Cranes flying N to S along the eastern shore of Buzzard’s Bay in West Falmouth, MA yesterday around 4:30-5:00PM. They came by in groupings of 25 to 27 each group. I counted the members in each group by twos to keep up with the speed at which they were flying. I counted until there were no more. None landed.
They were the right size, shape, coloring and so majestic I couldn’t stop watching and counting. Imagine my surprise to discover they were: 1. endangered, 2. migrated between LA,MS and Canada over the midwest USA, and usually ate grains, etc. There are swamps/marshes along MA shores so they may have been feeding from those. They did not look well fed…….kind of skinny compared to the photos in your newsletter.
From memory, there were 8 – 12 adolescents in the group, judging from your photos of adolescents. Thicker necks yet held straight in front of them, a little mottled around the head, necks and on top of the wings, but not much.
I think they were blown off course by a massive, freezing, northeasterly blowing storm experienced by those in ID, IL, WI, MI and north into Canada yesterday. The storm is headed toward us here along New England and up into the Canadian Maritimes.
Phone me if you’d like to discuss: Cell: 978-812-9397 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi Mary, It would be exceedingly rare to have Whooping Cranes in the east, and even more rare to see 250 at once, as their total population in the wild is currently 500. Wild Whooping Cranes are either medium-distance migrants or resident birds. One population migrates on its own from Canada to Texas. A reintroduced population (Wisconsin – Florida) migrates with the guidance of ultralight aircraft. The other two reintroduced populations (Florida and Louisiana) are nonmigratory – all together these make up the ~500 individuals. Unfortunately, what you saw is much more likely be a flock of Snow Geese, which commonly migrate through the Northeast this time of year. Snow geese are also all white, with black wing tips, and hold their heads out in front of them when they fly. There is a “blue” form of Snow Geese that may account for the differently-colored individuals. You can view a photo of Snow Geese flying here. We agree, it can be quite magical to watch flocks of Snow Geese flying overhead!
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