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Farmer rejoices over rare bird sighting

John Walter 02/16/2012 @ 10:37am

“Build it and they will come,” Ray McCormick, an Indiana farmer, wrote in an e-mail to Agriculture.com this week. Attached was a press release from the state’s natural resource agency announcing the sighting of a rare bird at a wetland in Greene County. 

“A hooded crane, normally seen only in Asia, has been spotted at Goose Pond Fish & Wildlife Area in Greene County, about 7,000 miles from its traditional home range,” the Indiana Department of Natural Resources press release said.

There are only an estimated 10,000 hooded cranes in existence, according to the International Crane Foundation. The birds live in such remote forested wetlands of Siberia that their first nests weren’t seen until 1974.

McCormick’s excitement stemmed in part from the fact that he was a leader in developing the Goose Pond habitat, one of the largest wetlands restorations of its kind in the nation.
 
On Sunday, McCormick journeyed from his farm to take in the sight. “Saw thousands of sandhill cranes, 14 whooping cranes, and the hooded crane,” he wrote. “People from all over the country were coming down the gravel road from all directions to see the crane. Some had driven all night to see the crane at Goose Pond. It was one of the most rewarding moments of my life.”

Within a day of the first sighting of the hooded crane, more than 100 bird enthusiasts had already visited Goose Pond from as far away as Minnesota, West Virginia and Nebraska, the Indiana DNR said.

Wildlife experts are unsure how the hooded crane wound up in Indiana, so far from home. One theory is that the bird might have joined a group of sandhill cranes, some of which migrate from Asia to the southeastern United States. The photo above shows the hooded crane, the dark bird in the center, mingling with sandhill cranes at the Goose Pond refuge. (More photos, including dramatic close-ups of the bird in flight, are available on Flickr.)

In 1990, McCormick was cited by Successful Farming magazine’s awards program, Farming in the Flyways, for conservation work on his own farm, which includes 1,000 acres of wetlands.

Related story: Take a wetlands tour: A farmer shows how wetlands can fit into agriculture

Slideshow: The wealth in wetlands

Photo: Elaine and John Harley

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