The whooping cranes are back.
Audubon of Kansas last Saturday spotted nearly two dozen of the rare whooping cranes were spotting at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. This week, the society is sponsoring guided tours in its “Celebration of Cranes” at the Refuge.
Free van tours leaving hourly begin at 8 a.m. at the Visitors Center.
Birders will be present throughout the day to help you enjoy the amazing assemblage of cranes and other birds that gather at the refuge during the fall migration. AOK leaders and other wildlife enthusiasts will gather at the visitor center to share information on where to see various birds and other wildlife.
The last tours will stay out beyond sunset when flocks of Sandhill Cranes can be seen returning to the refuge to roost at night in the security of the shallow waters.
Reservations for the tours are not required but requested via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by calling (785) 537-4385 or on site.
The wetlands and shallow waters of the refuge provide the most important spring and fall migratory stopover habitat for federally endangered Whooping Cranes. They stop at the refuge to feed and rest during the arduous 2,500-mile migration between their nesting territory in and near the Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Canada’s Northwest Territory and their wintering habitat within and near the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge along the Texas Gulf Coast.
The event aims to:
• Highlight the importance of the 22,135-acre Quivira National Wildlife Refuge for whooping cranes, sandhill cranes and hundreds of thousands of other migratory birds throughout the year
• Introduce the incredible wildlife viewing opportunities available at Quivira to the public.
Donations to help cover the costs of van rentals will be appreciated. Although AOK will provide some refreshments and camaraderie at the visitor center, participants are encouraged to bring a sack lunch for a long day of wildlife watching. Many may want to stay until dark.
In addition to 22 whooping cranes, an estimated 14,000 sandhill cranes were also spotted last week, utilizing the refuge, along with more than 50,000 geese and ducks, and numerous other shorebirds and water birds.
The diversity of migratory birds changes from week to week, sometimes from one day to the next. Eagles, hawks and songbirds are among other birds expected this weekend.