The Accidental Craniac

endangered cranesThe past two winters, we’ve spent the month of January in Rockport, Texas.  The impetus of the original trip (2 years ago) was initiated by one of Al’s buddies which focused on Sportsman activities…. you know; manly men, doing manly things.

I didn’t mind, considering the majority of the time we’re traveling to places I want to go.

I figured it would be the perfect opportunity for a little alone time and for me to focus on a project stewing in my head.  The RV Park was chosen by the buddy and my initial opinion on the place was less than favorable, but the beauty of living in a home on wheels is everything’s temporary.

whooping cranes

Endangered Whooping Cranes

So while the guys were off doing their manly stuff, I started exploring the area.  The RV Park was located in a rural residential area just down the road from Goose Island State Park.  Several times a day, I’d either ride my bike or walk around the neighborhood.  This is when I discovered a large white bird.endangered whooping crane

The loud whooping call of the bird was hard to ignore and I became quite intrigued.  I snapped some photos and the following day I ventured out to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  I was off to an early start and may even have been one of the first few visitors to the refuge that morning.

endangered whooping crane

Whooping Crane aka whooper

In the distance I noticed those big white birds again… click, click, click.  Love that burst mode on the camera.  A couple of hours later the refuge was a little busier. I was asked for the second time that morning if I’d seen any “whoopers”.  Not knowing what they were talking about, I said, “No.”

Before leaving the refuge, I stopped in at the visitor center.  The volunteers were a delight.  All fellow RVer’s workamping at the refuge.  They were quick and enthusiastic to share information.  Again the word whooper was mentioned.   I finally asked,  “I’m sorry, but what’s a whooper?”  Ten minutes later, I’m more intrigued with these unique birds than ever before, and educated on the blight of the endangered whooping crane.  Come to find out, folks from around the country come to this area of Texas to see the last remaining WILD whooping cranes and here I was stumbling upon them without effort.

Siberian Crane

Siberian Crane – Russia and China. Most endangered breed.

I spent the rest of the month observing the wild whooping cranes along with some sandhill cranes.  Oh, there were lots of other bird discoveries I enjoyed as well during that trip, but by passion lied with the cranes.

red-crowned crane

Red-crowned crane – Asia

I’ve never considered myself a birder, but there’s just something I’m drawn to when it comes to cranes.  During one of my photography outings in Texas, I befriended a few fellow photographers and that’s when I first heard the word Craniac used.  Craniac = fictitious name used to describe anyone with a passion for cranes.   Seems I may have accidentally become a Craniac myself.

You can imagine my exuberance when I heard there was an International Crane Foundation.   Once again my good friend, Mona Liza, was able to enlighten me, having already visited.  Hubby and I were formulating a summer family visit to the Midwest and thus a visit to the International Crane Foundation could easily fit into our plans.  It became a MUST on MY itinerary.

International Crane Foundationa

Blue Crane – South Africa


International Crane Foundation

So here I am.  I arrived at the International Crane Foundation located in Baraboo, Wisconsin, shortly after 9:00 in the morning with plans to attend the 10:00 guided tour.   Until it was time for the tour, I strolled around grounds.  I’ll admit, I was initially disappointed and saddened to see most of the cranes behind fences.

Brolga Crane

Brolga Crane – Australia

I later learned, the fencing is more about keeping predators OUT, plus it’s all about the greater good of the survival of all cranesICF.

Our tour guide, Cully, was a wealth of information on the birds and the facility.  He was extremely knowledgeable and able to answer any and all questions.

After my almost 2 hour guided tour with Cully, I was enlightened and educated beyond my expectations.  There’s even cooperative efforts with the North Koreans to protect habitat for cranes.

Wattled Crane

Wattled Crane

African cranes

Wattled Crane – Africa

International Crane Foundation

Brolga Crane – Australia

It’s amazing what this foundation is doing around the world.  Not only is the effort to save cranes having a positive impact on their overall repopulation, the efforts are also improving the lives of people.  It’s a win win for all involved.

The International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin, is the only place in the world where all fifteen crane species can be seen.

The respect and care for the birds is obvious.  Breeding couples and new chicks are kept away from the public eye and any human contact is kept to a minimum in an effort to keep these cranes as wild as possible.

Black Crowned Crane

Black Crowned Crane – Africa

International Crane Foundation

Demoiselle Crane – Eurasia

I will say, photographing these beauties was a bit of a challenge.  As I mentioned before, most are behind fences requiring me to find a strategic spot to zoom in between.endangered cranes

Overall, I had a fantastic visit and would return in a heartbeat.  I ended up spending three hours there in the morning, had lunch back at the campground, and returned for another 2 hours of crane communing in the late afternoon.

Siberian Crane

Siberian Crane

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

My crane obsession has been temporarily satisfied…. emphasis on the word temporary.  For anyone even slightly interested in ecosystems, conservation, or birds I would encourage you to visit the International Crane Foundation.  You can visit their website here…. saving more than cranes.Black Crowned Crane

Siberian Crane“The International Crane Foundation works worldwide to conserve cranes and the ecosystems, watersheds, and flyways on which they depend.”

International Crane Foundation

All photos were taken by me at the International Crane Foundation.  I love photographing cranes from different angles, zoomed in, and zoomed out.  I can watch these unique creatures for hours and quite often do when given the opportunity.  This weeks WordPress Photo Challenge is; from every angle.  I hope I’ve captured the essence of the photo challenge.   Does this look like a happy camper?


Craniac takes selfie with whoopers

Off the Beaten Path: A Travel Guide to More Than 1000 Scenic and Interesting Places Still Uncrowded and Inviting
The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story


85 thoughts on “The Accidental Craniac

  1. Altough we usually go to Port Aransas, we did go to Rockport twice, but never at the right time for the cranes. But I think we really need to do that some time. Maybe this coming winter. Even after having moved farther away from the coast to Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country, it’s only a 4-hour drive to get there.
    Thanks for sharing the great pictures.
    Have a wonderful time,

    • Our current plan is to return to Rockport this January again for the birding. The cranes usually show up around November and by the time we get there in January, there’s a group that hangs out in Lamar – near Goose Island SP. All the other birds are worth noting too. There’s lots of great places to stay.

  2. You photos of the whooping cranes are stunning Ingrid! Well done considering the challenge of the fence. They are beautiful cranes and I am happy to learn about the work being done to save this species.

  3. Oh Ingrid, I thoroughly enjoyed this tour of the International Crane Foundation, thanks so much for the information. I love cranes too (I guess I’m a Craniac?) and have enjoyed seeing them in many wild places around the world. The last time I was in Wisc. visiting family, I decided next time I would make the trip to Baraboo, and your post has reinforced that plan. I am glad you mentioned the difficulty with the fences, because that is what I wondered about. But I appreciate their efforts, and applaud them; and it’s great to have all the world’s cranes in one place. I have enjoyed many crane species, and am always in awe, but with your spectacular photos I now add the demoiselle and blue cranes as very striking too. 😀

    • I knew this would be of interest to you and I’d say you too are a Craniac. You might also want to add a trip to the Necedah NWR which isn’t too much further. Time got away from us and I wasn’t able to stop there, but I understand cranes summer in Necedah amongst a host of other birds. The 2 hour “World Tour” with the guide is an absolute must at the ICF. Fascinating information. A little family and a little birding, sounds like a good trip to me 🙂

    • Wow, those are some stunning whooper photos. You’ll definitely enjoy the Crane Foundation and all the efforts they are making for the preservation of cranes. Necedah NWR might also be worthy of a stop.
      So far, we’re planning on being back in Lamar TX in January for a little more whooper communing. Thanks for commenting and sharing your amazing photos.

  4. Never heard of a craniac before. Great term. Love the photos. We really enjoy seeing and hearing the sandhill cranes each year flying to/from Bosque del Apache. They fly right over Los Alamos. One of my many favorite things about this area.

  5. Oh, this is definitely a place we would love to visit. The cranes are so graceful and magnificent, and your photos are beautiful. I especially love the closeups. We were thrilled to see the Whooping Cranes on Goose Island a few years ago — I think we came across the cranes in the very same place that you did when we were biking along the bay. Such a wonderful surprise! Happy birding, fellow craniac!

    • I was thrilled to capture some up close photos of these amazing birds. The visit to the ICF was a top priority for me during our Midwest sojourn and did not disappoint. Sounds like you did indeed see the Whoopers in that residential neighborhood near Goose Island. I adore watching them fly – magnificent indeed.

  6. Birds have become an addiction for me as well, particularly goldfinches, herons, and egrets, all found in the park where I walk. I love your photos and post. We go past Baraboo every summer and I think we’ll have to make a stop there (and not for the circus museum, although that might be interesting as well.)


    • I thought Baraboo was definitely worth the stop. The hiking around Devil’s Lake was wonderful and of course the International Crane Foundation was fascinating especially for anyone who enjoys birds. We even enjoyed the Baraboo Farmer’s Market. With my clown phobia, it was just as well the circus museum was closed for renovations 😉

  7. That does it – Baraboo is going on the 2016 list. Your photos are fantastic!

    We were also entranced with the Whoopers at Goose Island, although we saw only a handful of them. The sandhills in Texas were astonishing. This mass departures and arrivals were a sight and sound I won’t soon forget.

    Thanks for being my advance bird scout, Ingrid. It is much appreciated.

    • Between the campsites and hiking at Devil’s Lake SP and the International Crane Foundation 15 minutes away, I know you would enjoy yourselves. I’m sure the fall colors would be stunning here as well.

  8. Wow, Barb and I lived in Wisconsin for most of our lives and never knew the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge existed. We have heard of and even been to Baraboo but will have to visit the refuge next time we are in the area. Great photos!

    • AHHH… the Aransas NWR is in TEXAS. The International Crane Foundation is in Baraboo, WI. The Necedah NWR (east of Tomah WI) is supposedly a great place for wildlife. I wanted to stop there as we crossed Wisconsin on Hwy 21 but timing didn’t work, rather weather didn’t agree.

  9. The International Crane Foundation is a fabulous place to visit. The last time I was there they were just undergoing a huge renovation and I imagine you got to see the final results of their labor. They truly are magnificent birds.

  10. You are such a lovely craniac, Ingrid. Oh thank you so much for taking me back there. Like you that was a wonderful ” alone time” spending with this magnificient birds. We even have the same tour guide, Cully 🙂
    And with your great eye, those birds come to life!
    I’m so glad your trip to Baraboo worked out very well this summer 🙂

    • It worked out great and I thank you for all your helpful tidbits. The tour was so interesting and I’m not normally a ‘tour’ kind of person. I would’ve gone back the next day and taken the tour all over again but the rain would’ve kept my camera tucked away 😦 Our January TX trip is still in the air but I can assure you we’ll be going back to Whitewater Draw in AZ for me to commune with 20,000 plus sandhill cranes. Care to join us?

  11. Your photos are amazing! Thanks for sharing the plight of the cranes. We stopped by Aransas NWR this spring but missed the “whoppers”. You have inspired me to make sure we return and maybe even volunteer there.

    • I had much better luck photographing the whooping cranes near Goose Island SP than I did at the refuge, not to say the refuge isn’t worth going to because it is. Glad you enjoyed my photos and be sure to let me know if you do volunteer at Aransas NWR.

  12. Enjoy so much of your bird post, Ingrid! You take the most beautiful bird photos, I envy you. 🙂
    Hope to visit the foundation in the future.

    • Thank you Gayle. We loved our time in both Baraboo and Door County WI and would say they are worth visiting. The ICF was wonderfully enlightening beyond my expectations.

    • Thanks Beth. If you’re every looking for a late summer trip, I would highly recommend a trip around Lake Michigan with a side trip to Baraboo, WI. Fall colors in WI and MI easily rival the northeast. Our original plans were to hang around this part of the Midwest for fall colors but a family thing came up having us return to Colorado a little sooner.

    • Whoop, whoop indeed. And yes many of the crane numbers are improving, although slowly. I would put a visit to Devil’s Lake SP and the International Crane Foundation high on that list of yours. It’s maybe a 4 hour drive for you and the fall colors I’m sure would be spectacular.

  13. Fantastic photos of these fascinating birds, Ingrid. It’s really heartening to know that they are being protected. Your visit to the foundation must have been a real highlight for you the accidental craniac. I keep looking at your first photo of the two cranes, trying to decide if it’s actually two birds or a case of Siamese twins. 😕 That crested crane looks so fancy. Wish I could get my hair like that.

    • Haha Sylvia, I can just imagine the two South Africans with matching hairdos. The South African crane is quite the beauty and her coloring is stunning. This was definitely a wonderful experience for me 🙂

  14. I am so envious Ingrid. I am going to have to make a trip back to the midwest again one day to visit this foundation. Since seeing cranes for the first time in Yellowstone, I believe I am a craniac too! Your photos are breathtaking!

    • Thank you LuAnn. What started off as me tagging along with hubby to TX has turned into quite a thing with me. Now I’m the one pushing to return to TX to commune with the birds. If you don’t make it to the Midwest, you at least need to visit White Water Draw AZ for the Sandhills (if you haven’t already)

  15. We get cranes and herons in our pond behind the house. They have an enormous wing span. The place where we board our dog has peacocks. I asked them how they protect themselves against all the coyotes in the area. She said that they sleep on the roof! That fence wouldn’t keep coyotes out. They jump higher ones here in Boulder.
    Did you see the Circus World Museum?

    • There’s actually top fencing as well as the electrical side fences to keep the coyotes, raccoons, etc. out. How fantastic to have cranes and herons in your backyard. I need to find a property like that. The Circus Museum was closed for renovations which was ok with me. I have a terrible clown phobia 🙂

  16. Ingrid what a fantastic post. I love that you are a Craniac but even more so the fact that you stumbled upon the Whoopin Cranes in the wild and didn’t even realize it! Like you are a natural birder.
    You bring up such good points that although we often find it hard to see animals behind bars there is in fact much work being done in breeding, educating and helping species survive. I’m so glad you shared that.
    Your photos, well I’ve run out of adjectives. I encourage you to enter some of the National Geographic contests. Truly!

    • Awe, thank you Sue. I am humbled by your comment. I’ve developed such a passion for these birds, I’ve even started giving thought to volunteer scenarios. However, I’m afraid hubby may issue when I spend more time with the cranes than him, but then again after 30+ years of marriage, it might be a good thing 😆

  17. Your photos, as always, are wonderful, and I the whole “craniac” thing is so cute! What a neat place that is. Wondering if you are planning to return to Texas this winter, and if so, if you have heard the long-term weather forecast this year? They are calling it “Godzilla El Nino.” 😉 Loved your post!

    • Thanks D. I really do need to learn to process photos and shoot raw. Thus taking my photography to the next level.
      Our TX journey is dependent on hubby’s buddy. We’ll know more by Nov. AND yes we have heard about the weather. It’ll be wet and cold in TX and probably worse than last year’s Polar Vortex. I’m currently sitting (camped) in a Cabela’s parking lot in Mitchell, SD and contemplating buying a set of waders for my TX birding 😆

    • I can barely figure out 2016 right now lol. We’re so pleased we did the Midwestern journey in August even though we did experience heat and humidity, but the farm stands were awesome. We originally intended to stay for fall colors but something came up that had us rearranging our plans. Door County WI and the UP of MI are not to be missed.

  18. I bet that was a great place to visit. I’m so glad there are some who want to conserve and preserve the endangered birds and animals. Even if they have to be behind a fence.

    • It was a little tough to see the cranes in captivity especially since I’ve seen them in the wild and even fly directly over me, but this is all for the greater good of the species. Thus, it’s understandable and the conservation efforts are impressive.

  19. You know me..What can I say except…LOVED LOVED LOVED this post!!…and Baraboo isn’t all that far from us..Thanks for sharing!

    • I think you should hitch up the fiver and head to Devil’s Lake State Park for fall colors and a little crane communing yourself. It should be maybe a 5 hour drive at the most for you and during the week the campground is only 1/2 full, but remember you want the Quartzsite loop. You won’t be disappointed 🙂

  20. This post is quite timely! The other day we were biking along a narrow side band of the Mississippi and a gorgeous huge, long, white bird with black under the wings and black legs and feet flew ever so gracefully along with us. I found myself smiling as I watched its movements and wondered what it was with the black under its wings. Now reading your post led me to do a little search to see if it could be a Whooping Crane and I do believe it was!!! How exciting! The bird was magnificent,

    Your shots of the cranes are so beautiful. Boy, there are some absolutely gorgeous birds there at the foundation. I do believe the Black Crowned Crane may be my favorite, but I love the dark grey “drape” in the front of the Demoiselle Crane! What a great day for sure! Thanks so much for sharing:)

    • Now that you’ve actually seen one of these magnificent birds, you might understand my passion for these unique cranes. There are less than 500 whooping cranes in the world and you got to see one in the wild. I learned so much about cranes during my day at ICF. I never knew there were so many different kinds of cranes and where they can be found around the world…. very interesting. They’re are beautiful and so unique 🙂

  21. How beautiful & unique each species are. You must have felt very honoured to have spent time freely photographing the whooping cranes in their natural habitat. Gorgeous shots Ingrid!

    • Thanks Lynn and I always feel honored seeing cranes in the wild. I realize now what a special deal it is. I hope to capture even more photos this winter of these magnificent birds.

  22. Thanks so much for sharing – love learning more about birds. Florida has the bird life and I am loving it – pelicans to ospreys to sandhill cranes to herons to egrets and everything in between – LOVE IT!!!

    Happy Weekend – Enjoy 🙂

    Mr. Craves jokes with me about staring my Big Year – gotta love him.

    • You’ll never be at a loss of things to photograph, that’s for sure. Photographing birds can be an addiction, just ask my husband lol.

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