Sandhill Cranes

Festival flies into weekend with something for everyone

By COLBY DENTON Staff Writer
Posted 1/10/18

The Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society at Cleveland State Community College is flocking together to help at the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival in Birchwood Saturday and Sunday.

Working …

This item is available in full to subscribers

Sandhill Cranes

Festival flies into weekend with something for everyone


The Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society at Cleveland State Community College is flocking together to help at the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival in Birchwood Saturday and Sunday.

Working with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Cleveland State continues a tradition to foster conservation for these beautiful birds on their migratory pass through Tennessee.

The Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, which is 6,000 acres (land and water combined), is located on Chickamauga Lake, at the confluence of the Hiwassee River with the Tennessee River.

“We help the Birchwood center with whatever they need. Whether it be kids’ activities like face-painting and making homemade bird feeders to directing traffic, Cleveland State is always happy to help,” said Robert Brewer, associate professor of biology and Wildlife Society adviser at CSCC.

The Sandhill Crane Festival is not an event to be missed by birding and wildlife enthusiasts who want to share the enthusiasm. The festival is a celebration of the thousands of sandhill cranes that migrate through or spend the winter on and around the Hiwassee Refuge in Birchwood, as well as an opportunity to focus attention on the rich wildlife heritage of the state and the Native American history of the area.

Beginning in the early 1990s, the recovering population of sandhill cranes began stopping at the Hiwassee Refuge on their way to and from their wintering grounds in Georgia and Florida. The refuge provides a combination of feeding and shallow water roosting habitat for the cranes, which is why TWRA has been managing the refuge for waterfowl for more than 60 years.

An official welcome and live music will start the programs on both Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m., although various vendors will be at the Birchwood Community Center starting at 8 a.m. TWRA Information and Education Division Chief Don King (who is also a Nashville recording artist) and friends, including the group Second Nature, will perform. Tom Morgan will lead traditional heritage music. Lynn Haas will also perform and will include a special children’s music appreciation program each day. The group South Wind will perform from noon to 12:45 p.m. on Saturday.

Guests will have access to three different sites at the festival.

The first site is the Birchwood Community Center, which will feature presenters, musicians, kids’ activities and vendors; the second is the Cherokee Removal Park, where guests can learn about the removal of Cherokee from the region as well as learning about any other birds present there; and the third site is the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, where guests will see the eponymous sandhill cranes.

According to Brewer, there should be several thousand cranes at the refuge.

“We’ll have buses there to ferry people between the different sites, but I would recommend everyone dress warmly!” Brewer added.

There will be no public parking at the refuge.

The nearby Cherokee Removal Memorial will feature Native American folklore specialists. They will present performances, artifacts and objects used in everyday life by Native American inhabitants of the Hiwassee River area.

“This will be a great way to support the Birchwood community, and to just give spotlight to these birds,” Brewer said. “It will also give people who may never think about these animals a look into their conservation and what we do to protect them.”

Brewer believes the festival allows people to see things they wouldn’t normally see, as well as get the chance to be in the field with wildlife experts on their respective areas of authority.

“We keep an extensive list of birds, so the experts at the festival know what they are talking about and will be happy to answer any questions,” said Brewer.

Photos are strongly encouraged by the Wildlife Society, as the sandhill cranes provide excellent opportunities for photos.

The American Eagle Foundation will also be present for its popular live-raptor show each day, with times on Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

If someone wants to get involved in the festival or other wildlife-related events, they can follow the Wildlife Society’s Student Chapter at Cleveland State on Facebook, or by contacting TWRA via its Facebook or website.

Brewer said there is something for all ages at the Sandhill Crane Festival, but that everyone should get outdoors to see the birds.

Breakfast will be served each day starting at 7 a.m., and lunch will be available in the cafeteria, which is open throughout the day.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment


Print subscribers have FREE access to by registering HERE

Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE

We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.

If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.

Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE