Crane festival starts Saturday

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The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will be among the organizations set to host the 2014 Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival to be held on Jan. 18-19 at the Hiwassee Refuge and at the Birchwood Community Center. This will be the 23rd anniversary for the event. 

The Tennessee Sandhill Crane 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. It is also an opportunity to focus attention on the rich wildlife heritage of the state and the Native American history of the area. 

 “If you enjoy National Geographic magazine's photos and educational TV programs, then you can experience the wonder of Tennessee wildlife by watching not only thousands of sandhill cranes, but also see endangered whooping cranes, bald and golden eagles, and a variety of other native wildlife species at the Hiwassee Refuge," said Dan Hicks Region III I&E Coordinator and festival committee chairman. “In addition to the wildlife viewing, there are also craft vendors, food, free shuttle buses, and activities for the entire family.”

The festival will run from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. (EST) each day. Free bus shuttle service will be available from the Birchwood Community Center to the Hiwassee Refuge and Cherokee Removal Memorial Park each day. No public parking is available at the refuge.

The American Eagle Foundation will present a live raptor show each day at 2 p.m. at the community center. In addition, TWRA Ornithologist Scott Somershoe will present an update on the status and research concerning Tennessee’s golden eagle population on Saturday. TWRA Region III Biodiversity Coordinator Chris Simpson will present a program on Bats in Tennessee (research update) on Sunday. Both of those events will begin at 1 p.m.

Along with the wildlife viewing at the refuge, wildlife and birding experts will be on hand. They will provide visitors with a unique educational experience by sharing viewing scopes and information.