February 6, 2007
The tornados that devastated a large portion of central Florida on Thursday night killed all but one of the 18 Whooping cranes that were being cared for at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. The cranes were taught to migrate with an ultralight airplane, as part of a project to create a second flock, in hopes of increasing the reproduction rate. The interaction of harsh Nature and human best intentions often leads to tragic results, and this case was a vivid example. The main flock of Whooping cranes spends the winter along the Gulf Coast of Texas. They were almost extinct by the 1940s, and even after decades of efforts to help them become reestablished, fewer than 300 are known to exist. See Yahoo News. Sandhill cranes, in contrast, are still quite plentiful.
When the temperatures fall into the single-digit range, it is especially important to make sure that wild birds have enough food to keep them warm at night. Yesterday I refilled the suet feeder in hopes that it would attract some of those tree-clinging birds during this brutal cold snap, and sure enough, two White-breasted nuthatches showed up today. For some reason, very few woodpeckers, nuthatches, or finches (Gold, House, or Purple) have showed up in our back yard for the past month or so.
WEATHER UPDATE: As of 11:30 PM, it's been snowing steadily for over two hours...