Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On September 10, 2012, I bought a card for my daughter's 16th birthday. On the day of Sandhill Crane, eleven days of summer remain to you.


I have heard the Sandhill Cranes are gathering for their fall migration. I first discovered the amazing birds with the wide wing span and the haunting call with a rolling r sound in Fall of 2005. I was making my way back from St. Joseph to Waterford, Michigan and I had a day to kill on the road. So I pulled off the road at the invite of a Sandhill Crane Winery sign and discovered one of my favorite birds. The grandmother who runs the winery with her daughters and grandchildren filled me in on all the local lore of this ancient bird. Several accounts call it the world's oldest bird. It reminds me of a pterodactyl when it flies. The angry peck of a sandhill should cause fear the way a pterodactyl bite can. That powerful peck has punctured more than one fox skull.
The cranes work in small feeding groups during the day, and a field of wheat next to the winery hosted a flock of four working near the grapevines. At night, the cranes report to a central flocking spot, and Jasper-Pulaski saw 15,000 cranes or more in November 2006. 24,000 arrived in November 2004. I have no idea how many arrived in November 2011, but I would love to see that number hit 30,000. Over 100,000 Sandhill Cranes have been counted in the United States in recent memory, which is far better than the year when the population bottomed out at 1000 Sandhills, around 1940. Nobody is shooting at the Sandhill Cranes now, except with digital cameras.
I think the birds are attracted to the bright, all night lights of the Michigan State Penitentiary. The large crane gathering in Jasper-Pulaski County, Indiana also has a well lighted state prison nearby. Thus, I probably should drive around Brooks State Penitentiary to see if a crane gathering place had established itself. I haven't seen them around Mona Lake, and the web recommends the White River marshes and a location in Fruitland Township, both around Whitehall, Michigan.  
Keep handy this list of places to see and enjoy Sandhill Cranes. The winery has them land where you can see them while drinking wine.
Not too far from the winery, the Haehnle Sanctuary is operated by the Audubon Society.
You'll find observation decks at this location in Northern Indiana, and thousands of birds landing in the evening.
In October, go to Cranefest in Calhoun County, near Battle Creek, Michigan

Photography Credit

Sandhill Crane parent with child maybe four weeks old. Key Biscayne, Florida.

27 June 2008

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