Saturday, November 5, 2011

De Crane, De Crane!

I felt like Herve Villechaize (from that old Fantasy Island TV show) this morning, telling Eldy, "Here they come! The cranes! The cranes!" only Herve said, "De plane, Boss, de plane!") Where were we? At the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, 30 miles south of Michigan City, IN at the ungodly hour of 6:45 AM in pitch black darkness waiting for the sun to come up, to see DE CRANES! We actually left at 5:15 this morning to be sure to get there when the sun came up around 8:15 AM and because we weren't familiar with the area and unsure of exactly how long it would take us to get there.  It was about an hour and half drive from Elkhart to the wildlife area.  Eldo did NOT want to have Sparky miss this great chance to see these beautiful birds "do their thing", fly, flock together....
The start of the cranes' arrival this morning just as the sun rose
Sandhill cranes congregate by the THOUSANDS at the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area every year, starting in early fall with low numbers. This is a resting and feeding area for them as they migrate their way to wintering grounds in Georgia and Florida. As the weeks go by, the count climbs from a few hundred to thousands, upwards to a peak of 15,000 some years! Depending on who you talk to, some say mornings are the best time to get detailed photographs because the sun is in the back of the viewing area, behind you as you photograph the birds. Others say sunset is the best time as you get the cranes flying back in the evening to land in the fields in front of the viewing platform, with the setting sun in front of you. As the sun sets, the birds say goodnight to each other or compare notes for the day, then head back over to the marshy area again where they feel safe and can hide for the night.

Experienced crane observers today said there are more birds in the evening and they come closer to the viewing platform. NOW they tell us! It wasn't on the website! We found this out AFTER we arrived at the site.
More coming.....
Sparky had voted for the sunrise. Looking thru a lens into the sun trying to photograph the birds at sunset didn't seem to be such a good idea--hard on the eyes?  So, we arrived very early this morning, walked a short hike back to the fields to see some other early birds--bad pun intended!--already there.
The viewing platform at 7:30 AM

It was a LITTLE disappointing. The birds were very far away...the zoom on the camera just wasn't strong enough to pull in details of the birds. Best guesstimate this morning of actual numbers of sandhill cranes at the start was several hundred. More and more birds flew in within the hour from their nightly roost at a nearby marshy lake. We didn't see much of the mating "dance" cranes often perform. Wrong time of year? But we HEARD them loud and strong. As we watched, more and more birds flew in like planes in formation. It was very cool to see them and VERY cold as well--31 degrees this morning...Lots of frost on the field grasses.
Still more....
We didn't have a lot of time to wait for the numbers to grow, so off we went down a county road to see if we could see them closer in the corn fields. We spotted a few, but again, they were far away. Next year, we'll be back in the area in October and we'll try dusk for viewing the sandhill cranes. It still was a wonderful sight to see, even if the numbers weren't there at the time we saw them.... Tomorrow we leave Elkhart, IN for Kentucky! I think!  We'll see where Eldo takes Sparky tomorrow!


  1. Thanks for sharing. . .I bookmarked this. . .maybe someday we will be close enough at the right time to see it for ourselves. . .we love this kinda stuff!

  2. Even though you were far away, the pictures are beautiful! Safe travels to wherever.

  3. I visited Jasper Pulaski in June or July. Only thing there then was the mosquitoes! :)

  4. We saw the cranes last year in a field not too far from the Elkhart Campground, but didn't see them this year. Hopefully we'll see some as we head south.

  5. More cranes later in November?? Or are the "thousands" coming in October. Would love to see this but maybe I can catch them in Georgia or Florida where it's warmer. :-)

  6. How wonderful to see so many. Just a couple of weeks ago we heard maybe 4 pairs in our nearby wildlife refuge (Upper Klamath NWR) but never have seen so many. Exciting for you and I love the photos.

  7. Definitely goes on the "must see" list.