By the time we settled for the night, everything was totally foggy. So, while the early morning was pretty gray, we were glad to see the fog was fairly light.
We started our Birding Boat Tour with Captain Tommy Moore on the Skimmer. And of course, one of the first birds we saw was a Great Blue Heron. If you see these birds on a pier or grass, you can see that they can be very colorful -- but in their natural environment along the shore, they blend right in.
Of course the goal of these birding tours, in the winter at least, are to see Whooping Cranes. These rare birds were down to something like 15 birds, before efforts were made to protect them. On this trip, we saw lots of Whoopers -- and some of them really up close!
This set of birds is a special family. The most obvious reason is that there are two chicks! (The juveniles are the two on the outer sides -- with a little brown still around their heads.) What makes this special is that Whooping Cranes rarely have more than one offspring, as the stronger chick will usually kill it's sibling, ensuring that it gets enough food to grow to adulthood. The second special thing about this family is that the male is the oldest known living Whooping Crane in the world. Pretty cool!
A bit further on, we encountered a pair of whoopers that were really close to the boat and did not seem to be worried by our presence. The male of this pair is a descendant of the pair discussed above. However, I believe this is the female.
We were close enough to these magnificent birds to get a decent portrait shot. Because these birds are looking in the water for food (especially blue crabs, their favorite!), every picture shows the water dripping from her bill!
Here you can see her making her way across this small pond. Whooping cranes stand 5 feet tall (almost as tall as me!). Their bodies are 52 inches long, with a wingspan of 87" (according to Sibley). They have black tips on their wings. Captain Tommy told us that the black feathers on their wingtips are stronger than the white feathers.
After a great day of viewing whoopers, this Long- Billed Curlew, walked right by us in the parking lot -- as if saying, "Take a picture of me too!"