Shelby Sandhill Cranes

Towards the end of last week I still wasn’t sure where I wanted to bird Saturday. Migrants haven’t arrived and I had commitments that kept me from heading to the Lakefront. So when a co-worker told me she had SANDHILL CRANES in a field near her house for the past month, my decision was made.

I know it isn’t unusual to see Sandhill Cranes in Indiana. Especially large flocks flying overhead. But my location living in Illinois was too far west of the Sandhill Cranes migration route from Wisconsin to Florida. So I never really encountered them until we moved here. And never where I could watch them interact on the ground.

I did have one previous encounter though.  My father-in-law lived on a wetland area outside Madison, WI, for a number of years. Every time we visited the cranes would be quite vocal but always well hidden in the vegetation. Finally one year they decided to walk out in the open water giving a good view. But of course they didn’t stay long that day before they decided to fly off to feed in the fields. And even though I searched I didn’t find their feeding field. So my sighting was short-lived.

The field Saturday was in rural Shelby County, an area I hadn’t birded except for the retaining ponds at work.  So the Sandhill Cranes gave me the opportunity to bird Shelby County, which is a topic onto itself and I’ll blog about in my next post.

But now onto the Sandhill Cranes.

She was right, there were Sandhill Cranes, and these weren’t the ones reported flying north Saturday in large flocks. I saw several flocks Saturday flying at a high altitude but the flock I was watching had been around for several weeks and didn’t appear to be in a hurry to move on.

There were two groups. The main group had approximately 350 cranes and was in a field just beyond a wetland area. The other group was in a smaller pasture on the other side of the road and had 25 or so spread out in the grass and trees.

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The larger flock of Sandhill Cranes just beyond a nice looking wet area. Plus a few Mallards. Shorebirds this spring? Rural Shelby County 2/20/16

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And part of the smaller group. Not sure I knew Sandhill Cranes walked through trees. Rural Shelby County 2/20/16

The smaller group stayed put but the larger group had constant groups of 5-10 flying in and out. And every time they flew they would “yodle”. Or whatever you want to describe their call.

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I bet there wasn’t one time during my visit there weren’t cranes flying around in small groups. Rural Shelby County 2/20/16

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And off to the west to circle and come back later. Rural Shelby County 2/20/16

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And a little while later they’re back to circle around and land. Rural Shelby County 2/20/16

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Closer… (the local cows were oblivious to the cranes, or just used to them)

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And down.

I know Sandhill Cranes aren’t unusual this time of year and numerous photos have been shown on the internet, but unless you travel to a couple of their known wintering or migration stops, you usually don’t get to see them fairly close-up on the ground.  Normally you just see them flying overhead. So it was fun to take time and watch them come and go and interact with each other.

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This group must have thought the eating was better on this side of the road.

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Not sure the status of these two but they spent a considerable amount of time dancing around each other. Rural Shelby County 2/20/16

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Just a close up of one of the cranes. Rural Shelby County 2/20/16

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As many people reported lately one of the large flocks flying north. Rural Shelby County 2/20/16

Like the Eared Grebe in January it was good to spend time with birds I usually don’t get the opportunity to view.

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2 Responses to Shelby Sandhill Cranes

  1. Gail McNierney says:

    Cool! Love the Sandhills! Do you know if they are still at the Shelby County location? Would you share the location? I live in Hancock County close to Shelby County line and would love to see them. So much closer than going to Jasper-Pulaski in November! Thanks for sharing your photos!

    • BobC says:

      Yes, there weren’t as many as a site like Jasper-Pulaski, but they were a lot closer. And I hope I stressed it wasn’t an opportunity I wanted to take for granted.

      I assume you noticed I purposely left out the location. I have seen too many people do too many stupid things about birds we don’t usually see. Like the recent post on FB about the people at Goose Pond walking out to the cranes for I assume a better picture. That being said look for a separate email.

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