We did go back today to the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. It's a great place to visit, although this is the wrong time of year to see the birds they have become noted for.
By something of a fluke, they've become an additional wintering place for Whooping Cranes. Although there are now about 600 of these birds (up from the all time low of 16 birds, which led to the immense effort to save the species), they are still individually numbered and tracked.
Of course, right now, they've all headed north. But I came one step closer to seeing one other than on film. This is 12-02. That means he was the twelfth chick hatched in 2002. He was found dead in 2016, and it was determined that he died of an infection. He was mounted for display.
The visitors' center is filled with mounted wildlife of all kinds, in dioramas that place them in the correct ecosystems. Two of the best are things you might find on the forest floor/wetland. Salamanders, snakes, frogs, turtles, etc. Here's a small section of one with a gray lizard and a cottonmouth snake.
There's a separate large observation building with glass walls that overlook the marsh. In December and January, the water level is raised and this entire area is covered with cranes and pelicans and ducks.
Today, we saw a heron, a cormorant, some geese, a raccoon, a yellow butterfly that I couldn't catch with the camera, and an egret.
The egret caught two fish, and I got it swallowing one of them. See the lump going down its throat? Sorry these pictures aren't great, but I had the lens all the way out, handheld, through glass.
There were osprey nest platforms on several of the power line towers. Had to catch those shots at 50 mph on a bridge. But you can see the birds.
The evening was a great people experience with friends, but I think I'll save that post for another day rather than mix it with the wildlife refuge.
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