January 22nd – Wheeler NWR, Decatur, AL:
Just over an hour and a half south of Nashville (and a straight shot down I-65), lies Wheeler NWR in Decatur, AL. Positioned at the southern end of the U-shaped Tennessee River Valley, it is a key wintering site for waterbirds. Long famous for its staggering numbers of wintering Sandhill Cranes, it is also home to large numbers of ducks, geese, white pelicans, and gulls. One of the main targets will be Whooping Crane, several of which can typically be found amongst the horde of Sandhills and at least six individuals are currently present as of this writing. After enjoying the crane show, we will work our way around Wheeler Lake, stopping to scan at several key locations as well as to grab lunch. We will meet at the Wheeler Visitor’s Center at 9:00 a.m., For those wishing to carpool from Nashville (which is highly encouraged) a good meeting place is the lower parking lot of the Adventure Science Center. Please introduce yourselves and be ready to leave by 7:15. Please note that masks are required to enter the refuge visitor’s center and observation tower regardless of vaccination status, and that they currently only accept cash or checks for those wishing to purchase something from the gift shop.