rara avis -- Whooping Cranes on the brink / Bob escapes wild boars by climbing a tree
First Day Issue / Tierra de los Sueños / TdSPosta
39th Anniversary of scrambling up a tree to escape a family (sounder) of wild boars (javelinas) in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Gulf of Mexico, Texas USA.
(From TdSPosta stamp series: "Recovered Memories")
* Whooping crane painting by Jean-James Audubon
* Alligator from circa 1930 tinted postcard
..of St. Augustine, Florida USA
* Wild boar / peccary / javelina
..image source unknown
The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was the winter habitat of the Whooping Crane, at this time on the brink of extinction in the wild.
The summer habitat is Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta, Canada. The Whooping Crane -- about 5 feet / 1.52 meters tall -- is the tallest bird in North America.
In 1970-71 I was stationed in an Army unit in nearby Corpus Christi, Texas, and one winter day a buddy and I motorcycled to Aransas to see the Whooping Cranes. I think we saw one or two far in the distance from the wooden birdwatcher walkway.
These were the seasonal termini of the last migratory flyway of the last Whooping Cranes still in the wild in the winter of 1970/71. There were about 20 or 21 of these magnificent birds left in the wild, although there were captive zoo populations, chiefly at the Patuxent, Maryland National Wildlife Research Station.
If ever there was a rara avis, it was the Whooping Crane in those days, its wild population rapidly heading the way of the dodo.
The single flyway exposed the migrating birds to accidental (or intentional) hunting kills. A cooperative program between Canadian and U.S. bird experts took eggs from Whooping Crane nests at Patuxent and replaced them in nests of the far more populous and robust Lesser Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis canadensis) in their geographically different nesting sites. The hatchlings were reared by their adoptive Sandhill parents, and migrated with them, thus establishing new north-south winter-summer flyways.
Another problem was the aggressive physical behavior of Whooping Crane chicks toward each other, resulting in broken bones and deaths. The Patuxent naturalists raised the fragile but aggressive hatchlings among robust and non-aggressive domesticated turkey chicks, who acted like soft punching bags; the Whooping Crane chicks bounced off the turkeys undamaged, and were able safely to grow to adulthood.