The International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin cares for 15 species of the world’s cranes. That’s all of the worlds’ s species. They also work with other organizations worldwide to learn about cranes and care for the environment crucial to these migratory birds.
We started at the Visitor Center. The organization began here in 1973 on this 300 acres property. To assist with their programs for the cranes, there are bases in Asia and Africa.
The center and grounds are open to the public April 15 to the end of October. Tours are given daily during the summer and on weekends spring and fall. We were on our own, which was wonderful enough. Many of the cranes are in the round in pie-shaped enclosures.
Some get their own little wetland.
Signs describe the migratory area of each bird and some of their distinguishing traits and cultural history. You can imagine this Grey Crowned Crane, whose wetland environment in West Africa is important, would generate stories. An example given was the story of a grateful king giving the cranes a crown of gold. When they were hunted for the gold, he turned the gold to a spray of feathers.
and thanks to Mike’s camera, we came away with some great profiles of these Blue Cranes.
Each enclosure had information about the crane – here’s the Eurasian Crane
However, the cranes did not always oblige us with a close-up view. Some cranes kept their distance. The fencing may protect the birds, but are not camera friendly.
A large area is devoted to a pair of Whooping Cranes. Their population was down to 15 in 1941-42 and is now at 300. They have been restored in one way due to captive breeding that created a non-migratory flock in Florida in 1993. For another way, Canadian and U.S organizations helped establish a new flock in 2000, that will migrate from Wisconsin to Florida. Other international programs help protect the cranes and their environment.
From this viewing spot I felt I was in the pond
Another part of the property lead to different walking areas, suggesting what to notice in what season. The sign also described the restoration of the prairie and savanna on the property.
We chose the wetland area – but there is a prairie and woods.
Actually there are two wetlands right next to each other. In one, the water table is deeper and this leads to different vegetation. Not that I might have noticed on my own – there are explanatory signs periodically on the trail.
A few flowers bloomed in September – but I’ll bet spring is a great time to visit the prairie.
Sorry, we didn’t get pictures of the Sandhill Cranes, but my cousins report them showing up in Wisconsin each year. They also fly over California.
See you on the trail!
Words by Lynn Millar, pictures by Lynn and Mike Millar
International Crane Foundation (btw: all of the cranes who live here are not wild.)