After a morning of leaf blowing and bark chip unloading, Gene and I took a rare Sunday afternoon off. We had made plans with friends to go birding with the intent of seeing the Sandhill Cranes in a preserve located about an hour and half from our home. Beginning to gather for their migration south, early November is the time of year that the Cranes are beginning to stage for their migration south.
Image by Mike Austin
Michigan is one of the best places to spot Sandhill Cranes each autumn? These large and ancient birds migrate south for the winter and pass through in large numbers at various recreation area and preserves. In their wintering areas they form flocks of over 10,000 birds.
We drove to the W. Baker Sanctuary in Calhoun County owned by the Kiwanis service group. Crane viewing continues there every Saturday and Sunday through November 10. Hours for crane viewing are from 4:00 p.m. to dusk.
Confirming the map and trail options at the notice board.
The Sandhill Cranes at the Big Marsh Lake in the Baker Sanctuary were about 100 – 200 yards in the distance on the marsh. Spectacular views of birds can be had with the naked eye, but binoculars and a birding scope will enhance the viewing experience.
The notice board.
I learned that this marsh was man-made, created by damming a nearby natural stream to create the 18” of water that the birds prefer to stand in overnight to give them protection from predators.
Sandhill Cranes are fairly social birds that are usually encountered in pairs or family groups in farm fields through the year. During migration and winter, non-related cranes come together to form “survival groups” which forage and roost together. Such groups often congregate at migration and winter sites, sometimes resulting in hundreds of thousands of Cranes being found together.
Beside the amazing view of thousands of five feet tall bird with giant prehistoric pterodactyl wings coming in to roost, our attention was drawn to a rather loud trumpeting sound that echoed like it was being played through an amplifier.
What a show. We stayed to dusk. Some folks think that going to the mall is the best thing to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but give me bird watching anytime.
Small House / Big Sky Donna