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Nov 23 / admin

Snow birds


Not usually much cause for German tourists in the chilly wetlands around Jackson, Michigan, or for artillery lines of telephoto lenses, binoculars, and scope tripods taking aim at the marsh sunset. That is, except from September to late November when thousands of sandhill cranes (a record 7000+ at last count, actually) gather at the Haehnle Audubon Sanctuary before migrating together to Florida for the winter (like so many Michiganders). Unlike most Michigan folk, sandhill cranes are three or four feet tall with six foot wingspans; they have long dark legs and bills, white cheeks, red foreheads, and are overall gray, which is often stained ochre from the marshes.

I’m going to let my dork novice birder flag fly and say how lucky am I that such a hemispheric wonder of the animal kingdom is going down every year just a half hour drive away. The sandhill cranes spread out during the day to gather food in nearby fields and pools and congregate each night at the main fen until all have arrived in the area from great reaches North and the temperature drops, and they start South in waves of flight formations. Well worth the chill to watch as directly overhead, squadron after squadron streams into the marsh with the setting sun to join the distant congregation. And to hear their loud weird rattling croak in the dusk as they do, which goes like this.

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