The Sandhill Cranes are arriving at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge (map in PDF format) on their way to Florida from their summer breeding grounds in Wisconsin and points further north in Canada. We ditched work Wednesday afternoon and went down to see them.
TWRA will host the 15th Annual Cherokee Indian Heritage and Sandhill Crane Viewing Days at the Hiwassee Refuge on Feb. 3 and 4, 2007. Bill Lishman of Operation Migration will be the keynote speaker.
You can go any time between now and then (we had the refuge viewing platform to ourselves on Wednesday afternoon) and see plenty of cranes. There will likely be more cranes and they will be closer to the viewing area during the festival when they cut the corn fields to draw them in. For best viewing from the platform, take a good pair of binoculars (and a long telephoto lens if you want pictures).
You may also be able to get a closer look along Blythe Ferry Road. We happened along a large gathering in a cut corn field and were able to get a close-up view.
We didn't see any Whooping Cranes, but there are reports that three have been spotted among the Sandhills.
Directions: I-75 South to Exit 27, right/West on Sgt. Paul Huff Memorial Highway to Highway 60, right/North on Highway 60 to Highway 58, right/North on Highway 58 to Blythe Ferry Rd., left/West on Blythe Ferry Rd. to Priddy Rd., right/North on Priddy Rd. to the viewing area. The route is well marked with signs along the way. (If you're coming from the South, take exit 25 and go North on Highway 58.)
Photos after the jump...
View from the Hiwassee Refuge viewing area
Corn fields in the background
In a corn field along Blythe Ferry Rd.
Landing in the corn field
Extra: A terrible photo, but it gives you an idea of how many cranes stop by Hiwassee on the way to Florida. This was taken from a platform overlooking the confluence of the Tennessee and Hiwassee rivers at the new Cherokee Removal Memorial Park.
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