A group of 15 birders armed with binoculars, cameras and bird guides went to the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Gueydan on Jan. 29 for the daylong “Give A Whoop” workshop on whooping cranes presented by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
The workshop for the Felicianas chapter of Oscher Lifelong Learning Institute included members from West Feliciana Parish and Baton Rouge.
“Give a Whoop” began with an early morning hike identifying songbirds followed by presentations on whooping crane biology and conservation efforts, according to OLLI member Darlene Reaves.
“The highlight of the workshop was a boat ride to the whooping crane pens that afternoon,” said Reaves, a local photographer. “Stepping into the blinds and seeing these magnificent birds was a thrill and maybe a once-in-a-lifetime sighting due to their endangered status.”
In the 1890s, large numbers of cranes were recorded in south Louisiana, but by 1947, only one remained, Reaves said.
In an effort to reintroduce an experimental nonbreeding population of whooping cranes to Louisiana, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries released 13 adults in February 2011.
The LDWF has added to the whooping crane population every year since, Reaves said.
Participating in the “Give a Whoop” workshop were Barbara and Richard Glass, Madeline and David Breidenbach, Linda and Darwin Knochenmus, Derrill and Pat Heurtin, Josette Lester, Al and Cathy Troy, Jim Bolner, Steve and Georgia LaCour and Reaves.
Reaves said the group is committed to educating the public about whooping crane conservation efforts in Louisiana by giving local presentations.
On Feb. 20, Reaves and Heurtin visited Catherine Leake’s third-grade class at Bains Upper Elementary.
“We started with a slide presentation about whooping cranes, identifying their 5-foot heights and measured against students’ for comparison,” Reaves said.
The students also looked at images of birds similar to whooping cranes, such as cattle egrets, great egrets and white pelicans, and pointed out their differences as well as discussed what type of habitats whooping cranes prefer, which are wetlands, Reaves said.
Reaves said the group had fun listening and singing along to Bill Oliver’s “Have to Have a Habitat” song and played Project Wild’s Migration Headache game that had students “migrating” from wintering habitats to nesting habitats.
“We returned to the classroom, where the children wrote the final verse to “Have to Have a Habitat” and added wetland to the list,” Reaves said. “It’s such a fun song.”
“Have to Have a Habitat” can be found at www.reverbnation.com/billoliver/song/3266980-have-to-have-a-habitat, and Migration Headache can be found by visiting www.migration.pwnet.org/pdf/Migration_Headache.pdf.