By Wanda Krack
When you hear the ‘honk, honk’ of high flying birds, and see birds flying in a V formation, you might think “there goes the Canadian Geese”. The high flyers will most likely be Sandhill Cranes, either returning to their wintering ground just north of Chattanooga, or flying North to their m ating grounds. It is estimated that between 15,000 and 20,000 Sandhill cranes spend around two months in the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Tennessee. The refuge is located on about 6,000 acres of land, around the confluence of the Tennessee and Hiwassee Rivers, north of Chattanooga, near the town of Birchwood, Tennessee. Birds come to the Hiwassee Refuge because of the combination of shallow water feeding and roosting habitat, with wet grasslands, marshes, and grain fields. They are omnivorous animals, eating seeds, berries, cultivated grains, insects and small mammals. The Tennessee Wildlife Resource agency encourages their yearly return by planting corn and other grains in the fields around the area. As a photographer it’s exciting to hear the cranes fling overhead and to know they will be available for a couple of months for picture taking.