Thursday, January 6, 2011

Roquefort's Migration

During the first week of migration, November 23rd- November 30th, Roqfort went further than the rest of the chicks in only a few short days. It’s probably because he hooked up with the right group of adults. While the other juveniles were taking their time flying south, Roq and his adults were making a beeline for their wintering territories.

He blasted through Wisconsin/Illinios in 2 days. Flew through Indiana and Kentucky in the next 3. He showed up in Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee the following day.

When choosing a resting place for the night, the cranes, like us when we’re travelling, like to find a place that has both food and a place to sleep. The cranes like to roost in water because it is safer. I’m not sure if it’s because predators don’t like to attack birds in water, or if it’s because the birds could hear the predator coming if it has to splash through water to get to them. It’s not a fool-proof system, but it seems to work for the cranes. Roq and his gang of adults found a great stop-over in Southern Indiana, just outside Louisville, KY. It was fabulously high on foothill, there was an awesome cornfield to graze in and a cute little pond/stream in the center of it. I enjoyed staying there, too, because it was located in fantastic wine country.

Apparently, Roq’s adults weren’t getting along between the pairs. They kept jostling over territory. 24 & 42 flew off to continue their migration the the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alabama.5-05, 15-04, and Roquefort foraged in the area a little longer before taking off to cover the final miles between Southern Indiana and Hiwassee Refuge. 

When they arrived at the refuge, they spent so much time on Hiwassee Island that I was never able to see them. Three days of patience paid off, though. I finally saw them at Armstrong Bend, which is a peninsula made by a bend in the river just north of the island. There are fields at Armstrong Bend, and it is a State protected refuge, so thousands of birds pass through there daily. It's a well known staging and wintering area for migrating birds. I haven't taken any pictures of Hiwassee or Armstrong bend, but it is BEAUTIFUL territory. Especially when the sun is rising over the rivers, casting a pinkish glow over the fog. The mountains in the background provide a surreal or mythical landscape. I enjoy waking up with the dawn; even if I don't see the cranes right away, the view is worth it.

Back to Roquefort; he remained with 5-05 and 15-04 for the whole month of December. The 3 of them can be seen almost every day at Armstrong Bend. Sometimes other whoopers on the refuge will join them there: 37-07 (known as the Michigan bird because he's the only whooper that flies up to Michigan) and 28-08. 12-04 (Super Dad) and 27-05 (First DAR Bird EVER) stopped in when they were passing through the area. They are now down at Weiss Lake with the other Juveniles.

Everytime the adults are jostling each other for territory at the refuge, I like to watch Roquefort. Usually the males will defend the territory more aggressively and the female will join in if she's feeling like it. 5-05 does a good job defending his area, I've seen him chase off 37-07, 28-08 (who is a female), 12-04, and numerous sandhills. I haven't seen Roq become involved, but he's always standing by, watching intently. I've never seen him stray from 5-04 and 15-04, so I wonder if he's become like an adopted son. Or maybe he's more like a foreign-exchange student. Either way I'm glad that he's found a pair of whoopers that will teach him the ropes. He's chosen well, I think.

(I'll post more pictures of Roquefort at Armstrong Bend later if I get them)

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