Birds Around the World
Some people just have a knack for storytelling. George Archibald is one of them. When I heard him speak last fall at the Midwest Environmental Education Conference about his love affair with cranes and his lifelong passion for crane conservation, he wove a tale filled with hilarious encounters with a Whooping crane who was pair-bonded with him; his amazing travel exploits to the demilitarized zone in Korea to work on saving precious crane habitat; and his never-ending message of hope. As co-founder and senior conservationist for the International Crane Foundation, George’s ability to tell the story of cranes and share his spirit with people all over the world has served him well in his mission to help humans find a connection to cranes and work to protect them and the habitats they rely on.
George’s own story starts at Cornell University where he met Ron Sauey and partnered with him in creating a captive breeding and research facility on Ron’s family farm in Baraboo, Wisconsin. George and his team have learned a lot in the 43 years since the start of the International Crane Foundation (ICF), perhaps most importantly that one must understand and embrace people and their cultures if one is to do the work of securing ecosystems, watersheds, and flyways for migratory species like the crane.
I have no doubt it was George’s storytelling prowess that help him pave the way to creating respite for the endangered White-napped crane in and near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. The White-naped crane spends most of the year in Mongolia and China but many migrate through the Korean peninsula and several hundred spend their winters there. In 1975, when ICF staff and Korean scientists realized the wetlands and estuaries in that area were critical to saving the White-naped crane, George worked with political leaders on both sides of the DMZ to protect those lands – and the cranes. He further protected habitats for them by crafting an international agreement between Russia, China, and Mongolia in 1993 – a historic meeting of leaders that now serves as “an ‘engine’ for collaboration among the three nations,” according the the ICF website. (Catch up on the current status of the cranes in the DMZ with this full length article from Smithsonian.com.)
This is just one of many success stories George tells. ICF now has a regional base in China and has created program offices with partner organizations in Cambodia, India, South Africa, Vietnam, and Zambia where they work in similar ways to protect cranes. The world’s 15 crane species – 11 of which are endangered – know no political or geographic boundaries. That is why the ICF team does not just work to save habitat, but also to bring people together, improve livelihoods, champion land stewardship, and build knowledge for policy and action.
In 2006 George was awarded the first biennial Indianapolis Prize for his outstanding work in animal conservation. This prestigious prize is awarded to heroes like George who often risk their lives to save the endangered animals of our planet and who work to establish the long term sustainability of animal populations. Here is the video made in honor of that recognition. If you have 10 minutes to spare, it is completely worth a watch – it includes his story of his pair-bonded crane, Tex, and Tex’s offspring Gee Whiz, as well as a clip of his appearance on the Johnny Carson show.
Did you know…
The International Crane Foundation keeps an annual “Egg Score Card” for Wisconsin’s captive-bred and wild-nesting Whooping cranes. The 2016 scorecard reports that of 28 eggs laid in captivity, nine are now grown crane colts who are parent- or costume-reared by ICF staff. Aptly, each is named after a National Park in honor of the 100 year anniversary of the National Parks system. And DNR staff have confirmed via aerial survey that two wild-nesting pairs have each hatched a crane chick.
To Do This Month:
Educators! ICF is offering a Teacher Workshop entitled “Bring Whooping Cranes Into Your Classroom.” Check it out on Saturday, October 15th – or sign up for the Cranes in Art workshop on the 16th.
Check out this animated time-lapsed map (at left) of over 100 North American migratory birds created by scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Alert: definitely mesmerizing.
Learn about the migratory pathways of North American birds in our area from BirdLife.org
Other things to do at Nature Net member sites: Take a full moon hike on October 15th or a Woodlands walk on the 9th at the UW-Madison Arboretum. There’s a lot going on Saturday, October 15th, including land steward work days at the Arboretum and at Aldo Leopold Nature Center, Good Neighbor Day at ICF, and the Grand Opening of the Henry Vilas Zoo’s new Wisconsin Heritage Exhibit. Check out details on the Nature Net calendar.
Whooping Crane Trunk
Learn the story of the endangered Whooping crane with ICF’s Educator Trunk. The trunk comes filled with tools, props and ideas for engaging your students in learning about conservation, food webs, migration, and tips on watching for Whooping and other cranes in Wisconsin communities. There’s a lesson plan focused on job skills related to pursuing a career in Whooping crane restoration, and another that focuses on data collection strategies. But perhaps most intriguing to eager learners is a hands-on experience with the Whooping crane rearing costume that is worn by biologists when raising captive-born chicks who are destined to be released into the wild.
Trunks are available for free year-round on a first-come, first-serve basis. ICF suggests requesting yours a month in advance.
ICF also offers many other teacher resources, including activity packets, info on how to participate in the Annual Midwest Crane Count next spring, and a connection to the Crane Chick Cam which offers a sneak peek into the life of a baby crane.
Winterizing Your Yard for Birds
As temperatures drop and the seasons change, you can prepare your yard or surrounding habitats for birds who stick around during cold winter months, and get prepared for spring migrants’ return. Audubon recommends a few tips, including planting native shrubs and ground cover that can withstand Wisconsin’s cold winters and be ready to sprout in the spring; instaling heated bird baths; and mulching with leaves rather than bark since leaf mulch encourages worms, pill bugs, insects, and spiders – a perfect food for many songbirds. Now is also the perfect time to clear out old nest materials from nest boxes and clean up bird feeders with a mild bleach solution. For more ideas and inspiration, visit Audubon.org.
You may find more tips – or just fun facts and inspiration – from Audubon Adventures activity kits.
I also just heard on the radio that Wild Birds Unlimited in Madison is hosting a sale on bird seed – just in time to stock up.