Sandhill Crane Festival

Birds, bird lovers flock to Birchwood

By Staff Report Article posted on Fri. Jan. 18th, 2013
Sandhill Cranes fly Saturday during the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival at the the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.
Sandhill Cranes fly Saturday during the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival at the the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.
Photo by Angela Lewis.
IF YOU GO

What: Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival

When: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19; 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (or later) Sunday, Jan. 20

Where: Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, off Highway 60, Birchwood, and Birchwood Elementary School, 5623 Highway 60

Phone: 931-484-9571, 615-799-8095, 931-648-0911

Website: www.tncranefestival.org

DINNER WITH DARWIN

Storyteller/science teacher Brian "Fox" Ellis will offer a "Dinner With Darwin" program Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Rhea County Welcome Center, 107 Main St., Dayton, Tenn.

The evening begins with a reception and silent auction at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 7:30 p.m. and Ellis' program at 8:15 p.m.

Tickets are $28, the cost of a TWRA hunting and fishing license.

To make a reservation by credit card, call Katie King at 615-831-9311, ext. 114, or follow the link at www.twrf.net/events.cfm.

Proceeds go to the Tennessee Crane Fund.

They're not 8 feet tall and bright yellow, but the big birds at Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge may be just as entertaining as any on Sesame Street.

As part of the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival, set for Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 19-20, birdwatchers will gather at the refuge to witness the migration of thousands of these long-legged birds, which stand more than 4 feet tall and have wingspans exceeding 6 feet.

Since the 1990s, the birds have been migrating through and wintering in Southeast Tennessee at the confluence of the Tennessee and Hiwassee rivers. The site is rich in wildlife, and visitors also may expect to see bald eagles, ducks, geese, great blue herons, egrets and whooping cranes in the mix.

Although the site pulses with activity, the scene along the river is not simply a visual one. In addition to the whoops, honks and related chattering by the other species, the sandhill cranes add a resonating sound described as a trumpeting or bugling call, creating a symphony of music most fowl.

Several programs will be held at the refuge, and other speakers will offer presentations at the nearby Birchwood Elementary School. Free shuttle buses will run all day between the school's side entrance and the Cherokee Removal Memorial Observation Park at the refuge.

Breakfast will be served Saturday at the school. Lunch will be available Saturday and Sunday, with pizza on the menu Sunday only. Pizza sales will benefit the Tennessee Crane Fund, which is administered by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

The TWRA is a sponsor of the festival, along with the Tennessee Ornithological Society and the Barbara J. Mapp Foundation.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

AT HIWASSEE WILDLIFE REFUGE

Saturday, Jan. 19

• Morning: "Bald Eagles" by Chris Simpson

• 1:30 p.m. "Cranes 101: A Basic Introduction" by Melinda Welton

• All day: "Wildlife Around the Refuge" by TWRA personnel

• All day: "The Hows and Whys of Telemetry Equipment in Crane Research" by Dr. David Aborn, UTC ornithologist

Sunday, Jan. 20

• 3 p.m. "Cranes 101: A Basic Introduction" by Melinda Welton

AT BIRCHWOOD ELEMENTARY

Saturday, Jan. 19

• 7 a.m. Free shuttle to Hiwassee Refuge begins (runs all day)

• 8 a.m. Breakfast starts

• 9-10 a.m. "Whooping Cranes" by Joan Garland, International Crane Foundation

• 10-11 a.m. "Bird Tales" by storyteller Brian "Fox" Ellis

• 11-11:45 a.m. "Challenger's Story," Bob Hatcher, American Eagle Foundation

• Noon-1 p.m. Lunch

• 1-2 p.m. Music

• 2-2:30 p.m. "Bird Eggs," Joel Blevins

• 2:30-3:15 p.m. Live raptor show by American Eagle Foundation

• 4-5 p.m. Live music

Sunday, Jan. 20

• 7 a.m. Free shuttle to Hiwassee Refuge begins (runs all day)

• 9-10 a.m. Joan Garland, International Crane Foundation

• 10-11 a.m. "Interesting Tennessee Plants and Animals" by Steve Snow

• 11 a.m.-noon. "Crane Tales" by storyteller Brian "Fox" Ellis

• 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Pizza lunch; proceeds benefit Tennessee Crane Fund

• 1-2 p.m. "Honors Birds" by David Stone

• 2-3 p.m. "Bird Eggs" by Joel Blevins

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