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Date:         Tue, 5 Dec 2006 10:00:44 EST
Sender:       Georgia Birders Online <GABO-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From:         Vicki DeLoach <VLDELOACH@AOL.COM>
Subject:      Topic: Sandhill Cranes outside the flyway
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"

I've been wanting to post on this topic for two years but still haven't finished my research - reading, posting and gathering current information from the experts. I'll post what I've learned to date.

We often see reports of Sandhill Cranes in west Georgia - the Eufaula area for example. And Gene Wilkinson has written about coastal Cranes. This has intrigued me.

I've also noticed RBAs of Sandhills in very odd states: Massachusetts and Maine e.g. These states are way way far east of say Jasper-Pulaski IN - their northern staging grounds. Had Sandhills wandered that far?

Here's some of what I've discovered:

ALABAMA: Last year I learned from Steve McConnell of the AL RBA that Wheeler NWR has wintering greater Sandhill Cranes - 1,100 on one count last year and 118 most recently this year. This flock began as several dozen in the late '80's/early 90's. He tells me that there also are usually a small number wintering at Eufaula NWR and Foley (coast), and possibly a resident pair or more on the coast. Thanks Steve!

ST. CATHERINE'S: Just learned from Jim Dozier/DNR some very interesting information about the origins of the 11 Sandhill cranes there. He tells me that in 1983 the USFWS took 40 eggs from Florida Sandhills and replaced them with greater Sandhill eggs - as part of an experiment for a future Whooper population. St. Catherine's took those 40 eggs and hatched them. So...., the current Cranes are from those eggs or descendants. The most fascinating piece to me is that these Cranes are Florida subspecies and non-migratory! Thanks Jim for answering a lot of questions.

OTHER GA COASTAL SANDHILLS: Could they also be wandering Cranes from early OpMig flights to Va. and SC?? Read their Journal for more info on these early experiments with Sandhills.

MASS. & MAINE: These include breeding Cranes. My theory is that these Sandhills wandered from early Sandhills led to Virginia and SC by Operation Migration. I've posed this question to them. It may be that no one knows for sure. I've posted on the Mass listserve regarding their Sandhills. One Mass. birder wrote me that some Sandhills have been summering in one town for the past 4 summers, even coming to a feeder and deck and pecking on the owner's windows ... and that 2 have been reported in nearby Connecticut. Another tells me that they're also in NY and other states. I've seen RBAs repeatedly for nearby Maine. There are current RBAs for Maine, NH, PA, NJ. Much more to learn here. Thanks to Barbara Volkle, who runs Massbird, for her kind help.

HIWASSEE: Thanks to Jimmy Wilkerson for keeping me posted on Hiwassee: a recent count of 6,800 Sandhills and 1 Whooping crane there - up from 50 Sandhills not very long ago.

Regarding migrating Whoopers - I noticed from the OpMig Journal that there are several more Whooping cranes that have recently started their migration south. And it has turned out that migrating Whoopers are often with Sandhills. So these Whoopers are yet to come through Georgia ;-)

Enough for now. I wanted to track Sandhill reports in Ga. this season but haven't had time or energy. Maybe Steve's s/w will help. So much more to learn

Vicki DeLoach S. Cherokee Co.

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