Community Events Festival of the Cranes event in Decatur Jan. 14-15 | CullmanSense

Community Events

Festival of the Cranes event in Decatur Jan. 14-15

Festival of the Cranes

“This is the second year that this relatively new festival will offer two full days of activities at Wheeler Refuge and events taking place throughout Decatur before, during and after the festival dates of Jan. 14-15, 2017,” said Melinda Dunn, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We are excited about the potential for this event to bring visitors to Decatur and promote the awareness of the rare whooping crane, one of our country’s most endangered birds.”  

According to Dunn, “Visitors have a unique opportunity to learn more about and view the rare whooping crane along with thousands of sandhill cranes and waterfowl. Wheeler Wildlife Refuge is a wonderful treasure and we invite families to come and enjoy a day of free events that celebrate our natural resources.”

 

DECATUR - The upcoming annual Festival of the Cranes at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, taking place Jan. 14-15 just north of Cullman, will welcome more than 14,000 sandhill cranes along with several pairs of whooping cranes. These migratory birds spend the winter at Wheeler each year. It is a sight that you will never forget.

Events include viewing the cranes up close, birding workshops and nature walks, kids’ activities, sponsor booths, live raptors and more.

According to Melinda Dunn, president & CEO of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the festival events will kick off at 9 a.m., when festival-goers can choose from a writing workshop hosted by Erica Wheeler in the classroom or the Comic Mis-Adventures of Lewis and Clark with Brian “Fox” Ellis as Meriwether Lewis in the Auditorium. Fox will repeat his program at 1:30 p.m.

Dunn also made mention of the additional activities on Sunday, which include a presentation by the Auburn University’s Southeastern Raptor Center, teaching about birds of prey and offering an up-close look at owls, hawks, falcons and eagles at 11 a.m.; children can take part in a special activity in the classroom from 1:30 to 3 p.m., and another performance of the Comic Mis-Adventures of Lewis and Clark with Brian “Fox” Ellis as Meriwether Lewis at is also at 1:30 p.m. At 3 p.m., the public is invited to a presentation by Anne Lacey of the International Crane Foundation.

“Of the 15 species of crane in the world, only two occur in North America. One happens to be the most common and the other is considered to be the most rare, but both of them are found in Alabama,” said Dunn.

Lacey will present why there are cranes at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and the ins and outs of the reintroduction of whooping crane into the eastern United States. This presentation is sponsored by the Trowelers Garden Club of Decatur.

The two-day event wraps up following an afternoon nature walk on the trails and around the grounds of the Visitor Center with Erica Wheeler at 3 p.m. The cranes will be on the move as the sun begins to set, providing wonderful photo opportunities.

The Wheeler Wildlife Refuge and the Decatur Public Library have partnered to display the beautiful and poetic story, Song for the Whooping Crane, to visitors as they walk along the Atkeson Cypress Trail at the Wheeler Visitor Center. The trail is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Decatur Public Library will host a Children’s Origami Program in its Youth Services Department in January. Children ages 11 years old and up have the opportunity to make origami cranes on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 4 p.m.


Festival of the Cranes schedule of events- Saturday, Jan. 14

The festival begins Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. with a Sunrise Breakfast at the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. The early birders get the biscuits!  Come out and enjoy a good breakfast with other hearty souls in the Visitor Center classroom before joining former Refuge Manager Dwight Cooley on an early morning birding walk. Visitors will be able to view the cranes and other waterfowl arriving in the fields to begin their day of feeding and loafing. The Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association will be providing and serving the Jack’s 6th Avenue sausage biscuits, breakfast pastries, coffee and orange juice. The $5 cost per person will benefit future refuge programs.  (Classroom)
 
Throughout the day, the Observation Building will be available to visitors so that they can get a “birds eye” view of thousands of sandhill cranes along with several whooping cranes, ducks, geese, raptors and perhaps a bald eagle from the comfort of the heated building. There are bleachers and spotting scopes available along with volunteers and staff standing by to answer all your questions.
 
At 8 a.m. visitors experience Birding 101.  Hosted by members of the Alabama Ornithological Society/Tennessee Valley Audubon Society, this class is a perfect way for a beginner to learn about birding.  There is no better way to learn the basics of birding than walking along the grounds of the Visitor Center. Be sure to check in at the VC information desk for information and the location of each event.
 
9-10:30 a.m.   

Children’s Activity in the Classroom

Calling all kids (regardless of age) to join in the fun educational activities – create a crane mask, crane puppet and crane origami.  Visit with the FWS Blue Goose and the ICF Whooping Crane mascots.
 
9:30 a.m.                  

Adventures with John James Audubon
Storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis portrays Audubon in a dynamic performance that engages listeners in scientific inquiry and natural history, art appreciation and ornithology. You will be able to spend an hour in the studio of one of America’s greatest naturalists and wildlife artists as you listen to tales of his adventures in the wilds of America.  This event will be held in the Auditorium.
 
11 a.m.               

Auburn University Southeastern Raptor Center Presentation
The Southeastern Raptor Center presents their educational program to teach about birds of prey.  You can see these birds up close while learning about habitats, conservation and ecology.  Hawks, eagles, falcons and owls will educate and excite audiences of all ages.  (Auditorium)
 
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.      

Domino’s Pizza Lunch with drink and dessert, sponsored by WWRA
A $5 donation per person will be accepted and appreciated and will benefit future refuge programs. Have a good lunch and help support the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association. (Classroom)
 
1:30 – 3 p.m.          

Children’s Activity in the Classroom continues.
 
1:30 p.m.                 

Erica Wheeler “A Sense of Place” Concert
Erica is an award-winning songwriter with six CDs to her credit. She is known for her poetic, visually-inspired lyrics, which have been described as “cinema-graphic” due to their descriptive quality. She is also known for her engaging storytelling, wry sense of humor and hilarious stage patter. Join her for an unforgettable journey through story and song.  (Auditorium)
 
3 p.m.                  

Auburn University Southeastern Raptor Center Presentation
The Southeastern Raptor Center presents their educational program to teach about birds of prey.  You can see these birds up close while learning about habitats, conservation and ecology.  Hawks, eagles, falcons and owls will educate and excite audiences of all ages.  (Auditorium)
 
3:30 p.m.                  

Nature Hike with John James Audubon
Join John James Audubon, as portrayed by Brian “Fox” Ellis, on a unique bird watching adventure as he regales listeners with his in-depth observations of the species we happen to see along the trail. Long before Stokes and Sibley, Audubon published several pages of field notes for all 435 species of birds that he painted, an “Ornithological Biography,” that totals several thousand pages.  (Atkeson Cypress Trail)

 

Festival of the Cranes schedule of events- Sunday, Jan. 15
 
8 a.m.                  

Birding 101 

Join members of the Alabama Ornithological Society/Tennessee Valley Audubon Society for a beginner course in birding.  Learn the basics of birding as you walk along the grounds of the Visitor Center.  Meet at the VC information desk.
 
9 a.m.                  

Erica Wheeler Workshop

Gain a simple, creative process to discover your stories and sense of place connections. Take home a way to capture special memories and generate ideas you can use to create stories, songs, poems and more. All levels of experience welcome, from the perpetually curious to the published writer.  (Classroom)
 
9 a.m.                  

The Comic Mis-Adventures of Lewis and Clark with Brian “Fox” Ellis as Meriwether Lewis
Join the Corps of Discovery in this humorous and informative blend of stories and song, journal excerpts and American Indian folklore.  Imagine an evening in Philadelphia with some of the greatest scientific minds in early American history where Meriwether Lewis reveals for the first time many of the scientific discoveries of the Corps of Discovery.  Encountering grizzly bears and collecting soil samples, capturing prairie dogs and hunting for antelope, Lewis catalogued 122 new animal species and 178 new plants.  In this original performance, Lewis sings the praises of the geology, diverse flora and fauna, and the web of life that binds us to the land.  The expedition was first and foremost a scientific expedition and this program brings the scientific process to life in what one reviewer called, “the perfect blend of science and stand-up comedy!"  (Auditorium)
 
11 a.m.           

Auburn University Southeastern Raptor Center Presentation
The Southeastern Raptor Center presents their educational program to teach about birds of prey.  You can see these birds up close while learning about habitats, conservation and ecology.  Hawks, eagles, falcons and owls will educate and excite audiences of all ages.  (Auditorium)
 
1:30 – 3 p.m.        

Children’s Activity. 

Calling all kids (regardless of age) to join in the fun educational activities – create a crane mask, crane puppet and crane origami.  Visit with the FWS Blue Goose and the ICF Whooping Crane mascots. (Classroom)
 
1:30 p.m.                 

The Comic Mis-Adventures of Lewis and Clark with Brian “Fox” Ellis as Meriwether Lewis (See 9 a.m. entry above for the description of this event)
 
3 p.m.                  

International Crane Foundation with Anne Lacey, Crane Research Coordinator
Of the 15 species of crane in the world, only two occur in North America; one happens to be the most common and the other happens to be the most rare. But both of them occur in Alabama! Learn how and why there are cranes at Wheeler NWR, and the ins and outs of reintroduction of Whooping Cranes into the Eastern US.  (Auditorium)
 
3 p.m.                  

Afternoon Nature Walk with Erica Wheeler
Join Erica for an afternoon walk on the trails and around the grounds of the Visitor Center.  The cranes will be on the move as daylight dims and the sun begins to set providing some wonderful photo opportunities.  A great way to end the day and the Festival of the Cranes 2017!

 

The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is located at 3121 Visitor Center Road in Decatur. For more information on the Festival of the Cranes, visit www.friendsofwheelerrefuge.org or call Teresa Adams, supervisory ranger for Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, at 256-350-6639, or call the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 256-350-2028 or 800-232-5449.

Video from last year's festival provided by George Lee:

 

Related Events

The North Alabama Birdwatchers Society will lead birding trips Jan. 7 from 7 a.m. to noon (Wheeler NWR White Springs Dike), Jan. 14 from 12:30 p.m. to dusk (Guntersville Dam North/Hawk Farm) and Jan. 21 from 7 a.m. to noon (Town Creek Embayment/Wheeler Dam/Joe Wheeler State Park).

A student art exhibit along with Wheeler Refuge memorabilia will be on display at the Old State Bank Jan. 10-31.

The Delano Park Conservancy will partner with the Decatur Public Library to present two story times at the Delano children’s garden at Riverwild on Jan. 10, 2017 (weather permitting). Mary Currier, the children's librarian, will read crane stories in the park at 10 a.m. and at 3:30 p.m.

The Alabama Center for the Arts, located at 133 Second Ave. NE in downtown Decatur, will host the third annual juried Festival of the Cranes Art Exhibit. Featuring selected artwork from students, alumni artists and faculty of Athens State University and Calhoun Community College, the show includes a diverse collection of art forms and media that depicts cranes, birds, waterfowl, ducks, geese, raptors, eagles, falcons, wildlife and nature. The art center will be open from 8 a.m. to noon on Friday, Jan. 13 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan.14 and admission is free. The exhibit will run through Feb. 24, 2017.

Nature-inspired exhibits and artwork will also be on display at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center. From now until Jan.15, 2017, Five Guys and the Nature of Art will be on display in the Main Gallery and local wildlife photographer Keegan Hutto’s images of the cranes at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge will be available for viewing until Jan.28, 2017, in the Lower Gallery.

 

The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was established on July 7, 1938 by executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first National Wildlife Refuge placed on a multi-purpose reservoir to provide habitat for wintering and migrating birds. Covering 35,000 acres, it attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl each year and is home to Alabama’s largest wintering duck population. The Refuge also supports the state’s largest concentration of sandhill cranes and the endangered whooping cranes. For more information on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, visit www.fws.gov/wheeler.