From Cranes to Clowns
Oct 9, 2007
|The NECEDAH WILDLIFE REFUGE and the CIRCUS WORLD MUSEUM in Baraboo
Tuesday, October 9
The next morning Guy had to help his son Dean with a job so Madolyn, Ellie and I left for Necedah and a wildlife refuge where young whooping cranes are in training for their first migration south. They will be led by a pilot in crane costume flying an ultralight aircraft!
It's a sight we very much wanted to see but Madolyn had called ahead and the cranes were not flying today. When they fly they go out at dawn and they need a clear, windless morning - which they have not had lately so they are behind schedule. We wanted to see them, flying or not, so we drove the 40 miles to the refuge.
Arriving at Necedah we found the wildlife refuge and went first to a viewing tower that looks out on the wetlands
. We had no sooner gotten there than a number of whooping cranes flew over, but they were too quick for us to get a picture of them. We settled for using our binoculars to watch the birds we could see, which were mostly sandhill cranes feeding and roosting at the edge of a pond in the distance
Occasionally a crane or group of cranes would take off and fly
, but they were always too far away to get good pictures of them. We left the tower and drove to the Visitor Center where we got directions to another viewing area on the far side of the refuge. This is a very big place (about 65 square miles) and we had to drive a long way but the drive was worth it, because here we saw a Bald Eagle
and a pair of Trumpeter Swans
The cranes and Canada geese seem to get along fairly well, but they don't mix socially. A few times we saw cranes take off and fly but unlike the Bald Eagle which flew right overhead
, they were usually too far off to get good pictures of them.
It's easy to tell cranes in flight from egrets and herons because they fly with their heads and necks straight out in front of them. The other birds bring their heads back against their shoulders and their legs don't usually extend out as far in back.
Sometimes the size of a bird is hard to determine if they are far away, but in general large birds like cranes have a slower more leisurely wing flap. Despite their hollow bones they are heavy and they don't glide on the updrafts like gulls or hawks or vultures.
The pictures above show them enlarged so you can see the stretched out posture they use in flight
. In the first picture they were flying right to left and were a little closer
. Then they wheeled off away from us and on the return flight they were farther away
. Even though they can be fiercely aggressive in captivity, they are shy birds that prefer to avoid you in the wild, and they take off and leave the area if they perceive any kind of a threat.
We drove the refuge roads back to the main highway, and found a nice little café in Necedah for lunch. By the time we got back to the house Guy and Dean were just arriving so we went in and visited for a while before saying 'goodbye' and taking our leave. Before we left Madolyn took these pictures of Guy and me together
. I'm sure we'll keep in touch now.
We headed back to Baraboo, hoping to stop and see the Circus Museum on our way out of town, but when we got there it was only an hour before closing
. It was larger than we'd expected, so we bought tickets for the next day and the woman let us look around the first building for the rest of the time until they closed.
She'd told us it would take two to two and a half hours to see it, but we could tell right away it would take us a lot longer. It is a very amazing place and if you are interested at all, there is a lot of information to absorb. We spent the time looking mostly at the poster collection. See photos of posters above. There is quite a variety.
The room of posters was nostalgic and informative, tracing the development of printing techniques from woodcuts to the first stone lithographs, and on to more modern lithographic reproductions.
This poster is as 'enormous' as the show it advertised, standing from floor to ceiling and stretching all across one whole wall
. You can imagine the thrill something like this would give a kid back in the early part of the century when there was no television, and not even movies to compete. These sights must have been unbelievable, and the hyperbole of the verbiage, while funny to us today, fit right into the innocence of the times.
From the color of the circus we went out into the cold of an overcast day and headed for Devils Lake State Park where we hoped to find a site for the night
. Like some other parks in this area, Devil's Lake State Park is on the Ice Age trail that traces the advance and retreat of the Wisconsin Ice Age that formed the geography and geology of so much of North America centuries ago. The trees are mostly bare and it feels like winter is almost here. They shut off the showers after the first of November so the hardy souls that camp then have to rough it. But we had it easy and got a good night's sleep in preparation for Circus World tomorrow.