The six Whooping Cranes at Father Hupp Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Thayer County, seem to be enjoying this WMA and its wetland. These birds likely first arrived at this site late in the day on Friday, 13 November, and they remain present Monday, 30 November, even as winter weather has settled into Nebraska. This means these birds’ stay has surpassed two weeks, which is a relatively long migratory stopover for Whoopers. Whooping Cranes also don’t typically linger this long in Nebraska as there are only a couple of later occurrences. The “Father Hupp 6” are, of course, stars of several recent press releases first announcing and then reminding folks about the WMA’s temporary closure to protect these endangered birds. Having been on site several times, I was able to capture some additional video of these birds frolicking and it is below.
One key point to note is the wetland habitat these birds are using could easily not be there if not for the efforts of a number of entities and people. This Rainwater Basin wetland underwent an extensive restoration just a couple years ago. Wetland restoration is not a simple process and requires a great deal of planning and coordination along with moving dirt. The habitat conditions these Whoopers found here was also not an accident – the WMA has been well managed. One important management action was the pumping of supplemental (ground) water this fall to benefit migratory waterbirds and also provide waterfowl hunting opportunities. But now, 2% of the wild Whooping Crane population has spent more than 4% of their annual cycle at this 160 acre wetland.
With cold weather the wetland has mostly frozen over. I hope these birds migrate south in the near future. Hopefully, they will be enjoying blue crabs and wolf berries on the Texas coast very soon.
Happy Thanksgiving and, of course, good birding!
Remember, Whooping Cranes are an Endangered Species protected by state and federal law. Shooting, harming or harassing Whooping Cranes is a violation of those laws. If you are ever lucky enough to see Whooping Cranes, such as the Father Hupp 6, please be sure to observe the birds from a distance which does not disturb these critically-imperiled birds.