Visit to The International Crane Foundation

August 9, 2003

The tour we got at the International Crane Foundation was professionally done, and we were impressed with the scope and dedication of their mission. Most of the viewing of the cranes had to be done through the fences, inhibiting photography, but it was certainly understandable. They have all fifteen varieties of cranes on the property, about four of them critically endangered species as I recall.

It was a joy to see the open exhibit of the whooping crane. I got so carried away with it that I will put some of the images in a separate gallery.

To more of the Whooping Crane

The Launching of Belmont

The next stage of the tour was called the flyover. They took a whole column of us out into their carefully reconstructed prarie to see a crane in flight. As our guide informs us about the process, you can see "Crane City" in the background. That is where most of the captive cranes are housed, and it is off limits to visitors. They wish to minimize exposure to humans for those birds intended for release into the wild.

The trick is to get the crane, Belmont, to fly up the road. His handler brought him out on the road and ran down the road in front of him, flapping his arms to persuade Belmont to take wing. The guide had prepared the setting by establishing all their excuses "Sometimes he just walks down the road. Sometimes he gets distracted and lands in the field, etcetra." But Belmont performed like a champ and took wing down the road.

Belmont rounded the bend in the road and landed on the road just past the handler on this end.

After landing, Belmont walks to his handler for the expected treat. Looks like he might be even proud of himself.

After his snack, the next trick is to get Belmont to fly back. The handler starts down the road with hands flapping and Belmont responds beautifully.

Following the lead of his handler, Belmont takes off along the road home.

A successful launch and Belmont flies beautifully back down the road, another mission completed. And a nice snack to boot.

One of the things which was evident everywhere in the operation was the extraordinary effort which was put forth for the care and welfare of these birds. As I understood it, this young lady was out to exercise the young birds and was there to care for them.

Rod returned for one last look at the whooping cranes. They had them in a really beautiful setting.

The collection of wildflowers in natural settings was really enjoyable. They had made a major effort to restore the natural prarie here, and we walked through nice grassland with many varieties of wildflowers.

As I was photographing these flowers, this little lady was very interested. Certainly as lovely as a flower herself!

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