Daily Connector | On the second day of Christmas…a flock of Cranes a bugling | Ruth Massey

In the spring of 2015, when Ajay and I took the walk with Ted and Diane at Slate Run, we were prepared to see birds, brining with us our binoculars and bird guides. At that time, I was not checking birding sites on Facebook or checking eBird to learn what species of birds to expect. So when a pair of Sandhill Cranes landed in the tall grass in front of us we immediately assumed Great Blue Herons, but just as quickly noted the red crown and heavy body. A check in our field guides...Sandhill Cranes! Wow! A bird we had heard about but never seen.

In the years since, I have seen Sandhill Cranes at other wetlands in Ohio; Killdeer Plains, Killbuck Marsh (both nesting areas) and Pickerington Ponds. Three days before Christmas, 37 Sandhill Cranes had gathered beside the back pond at Pickerington Ponds. Shortly after we arrived, they took off to feed in neighboring fields.

On the day after Christmas, I walked at the OSU wetlands along the Olentangy river. I took a small trail that circles the edge of the ponds. I stopped and observed a flock of White-throated Sparrows feeding in the low growth and spotted a Fox Sparrow moving with them.

I then heard the call of a bird that seemed to come from not far away. The sound got closer, louder, more voices and suddenly it was over me, large flock of Sandhill Cranes flying south. For more than 2 minutes I stood watching as flock after flock crossed above me, their light gray bodies with their broad, dark edged wings etched against the bright blue sky. It was amazing!!

Later that day I read that other birders in more open areas and cameras in hand, had counted 90-150 birds, depending on their locations. The assumption was that the snow and colder weather had urged the Sandhill Cranes that had been gathering/staging in the north to continue their journey to their southern wintering grounds in Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

Due to habitat loss and indiscriminate shooting, the Eastern Population of the Sandhill Cranes was nearly extirpated by the early 1900s. A few hundred Cranes survived in remnant breeding grounds in Michigan and Wisconsin.

The last nesting pair in Ohio was in 1926. In the 1970s the numbers in Michigan were increasing with spillover into Ohio, with the first breeding pair in 1985. With better wetland and habitat management, that number has slowly increased. There are now an estimated 45 breeding pairs in Ohio.

The Sandhill Crane remains on Ohio’s state-threatened species list, though overall in the US, the numbers are good.

Fun facts:
Sandhill Crane are believed to be the oldest living bird species, having existed for more than 2.5 million years in their present form.

They are known for their far carrying bugle call which can be heard 2.5 miles away.

Young offspring stay with their parents for the first 8-10 months. They migrate as a family group attached to a larger group.

Staging areas:

Spring migration: Platte River Valley, Nebraska:
http://outdoornebraska.gov/sandhillcrane/ http://outdoornebraska.gov/sandhillcrane/

Fall migration: Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, Indiana:

General info:

Ohio info:


Wonderful video! And info on the western US Sandhill Cranes:

The first video is the sound of the cranes approaching.