Every fall thousands of Greater Sandhill Cranes gather near Grantsburg Wisconsin to beef up in preparation for their annual southward migration to the warmth of the U.S. Gulf Coast. And every fall, hundreds of folks visit the area to view the cranes for themselves.
I had the opportunity last week to lead a group of birders from the River Falls and Hudson WI area out to watch the cranes fly in to their night-time roosting grounds in the sedge marshes of Crex Meadows Wildlife Area. We picked a great evening for the tour. The weather was perfect, still, sunny, warm enough. Considering how gray and rainy it had been, we really lucked out. We spent an hour or so watching as thousands of cranes flew in over us in flocks of tens and dozens and hundreds at a time, landing in the wet meadows across the water from where we were standing along the roadway. All in all somewhere north of five thousand cranes flew past us. It was an awesome sight.
I gave a talk while we were watching the cranes fly in about the natural history of the Sandhill Crane, where they winter and where they breed, and about the habitat they use. Since most of the people on the tour had not been to Crex Meadows before, I also talked about the wildlife area and about wildlife management. We also talked about the trumpeter swan and their history with Crex Meadows, as there were a few dozen swans hanging out in the ponds near where the cranes were landing. All in all we had a great tour.
The Sandhill Cranes will be around the Grantsburg Area for a few more weeks until the marshes begin to freeze over. Then they will leave to head south for the winter. They can be viewed in Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in the morning and evening as they fly out to and return from their feeding grounds. During the day, they can be observed in the farmland south east of Grantsburg.