Monday, October 22, 2007

Crex Meadows Birds

Time for a quick recap of the birds we saw at Crex Meadows on Saturday.
Red-tailed Hawks
Northern Harriers
Field Sparrows
Snow Buntings- lifer and an awesome view!!
Canada Geese
Green-winged Teal- lifer
Ring-necked Ducks- lifer
We spotted 3 Northern Shrikes (2 of them were my spots!) This one was pretty far away but I think you can still make out the field marks.

There were quite a few Trumpeter Swans. Here is a pair with their three gray goslings. I learned that trumpeter swans were extirpated from Minnesota due to hunting and as few as twenty years ago they were very rare to see. They've made quite a healthy come back.

The main reason I signed up for this trip was to see the Sandhill Cranes. Several thousand of them use a field in Crex as a staging area on their migration south. Every evening in the fall the cranes come from about a fifty mile radius to this field to spend the night. To say it was a remarkable sight would be a gross understatement.

If I scanned the tree line with my binoculars I could see lines of the sandhills flying in from all directions.
Sandhill cranes stay in family groups throughout their migration. As they flew in they were constantly calling to each other. The sound was musical- a combination of yodeling, trumpeting, and trilling.
I found the experience so moving. It felt like I was witnessing something very special, and very old. As the light waned, and we got ready to leave, there were thousands of sandhill cranes in the field, still calling to each other. I wonder at their language and I wonder at their instincts, passed on through the generations that call them to this field in Wisconsin year after year.
It was a privilege to stand on the edge of that field and watch those magnificent birds, something I will never forget.


Nature Knitter's Mom {Betty K] said...

Lynne, Pixs of your Sun trip, trumperter swans I have seen but Sandhill Cranes I have not seen. What a thrill for me to see pixs of them and your descriptions of them entering your world to land, awesome. Thanks for the trip again.
Nature Knitter's Mom [Betty K]

Trixie said...


You are so lucky. There is a spot here with thousands of cranes, but it is impossible to reach on foot. You get maybe a glimpse here and there. However, you get the sound, oh the sound.

Deb said...

Wow- I have seen and heard cranes, but never so many in one place! Crex is really not too far away from me, I should get there sometime to see this.

Q said...

I have never seen the Sandhill Cranes. I can just imagine how magical this would be.
Thank you...
I am fond of watching the birds in migration. I wonder if the Sandhill Cranes come anywhere near my house? I will do some reasearch.

Linda said...

What a great experience. How wonderful to see that many Sandhill cranes at once. And to think people sit at home and play video games or watch TV instead of enjoying nature. They don't know what they are missing.

Marsha said...

I've only seen Sandhill cranes in pairs. What a wonderful sight to see...I really like your last "in flight" photo!

I googled Crex...might have to talk my DH into a roadtrip.

Cathy said...

Lovely, Lynne. The picture of the cranes drifting into the marsh brings back happy memories. You're right - there's something so haunting, so beautiful in their calling to one another.

MojoMan said...

Very old and very special, indeed! I haven't seen sandhill cranes in over 20 years when they used to fly over my house in Florida. I loved their croaking calls as they flew in formation. You are so lucky to experience this primordial ritual.

Have you seen "Winged Migration"? Rent the DVD and watch the special features on how they made the movie. Sandhills are prominently featured. I got the soundtrack at the library. That's pretty cool, too.

Mary said...


Thank you for sharing something I've never seen. Wonderful post, full of feeling and tribute to some wonderful birds. All lifers for me. Well written.


Susan Gets Native said...

Northern Shrikes....the songbird who should be classified as a raptor.

LauraHinNJ said...

Oh the cranes... the cranes!!!

Lucky you! I felt the same about the first time I saw gazillions of snow geese coming into a marsh from all directions. Just awe-inspiring.

Laurie said...

I love sandhill cranes. They are amazing creatures. You have captured them wonderfully.

Sharon said...

This is the fun thing about being so new to birding and to keeping track:
Northern Harrier
Snow Buntings
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Ducks
and Trumpeter Swan
were all lifers for me! :)
This was just such a wonderful trip! And it was great fun getting to spend the day with you.

Sharon said...

This is the fun thing about being so new to birding and to keeping track:
Northern Harrier
Snow Buntings
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Ducks
and Trumpeter Swan
were all lifers for me! :)
This was just such a wonderful trip! And it was great fun getting to spend the day with you.

Jayne said...

Wow Lynne... how very neat to be able to witness that! I can just hear their calls and can only imagine how that sounded with thousands of voices. Lucky you!

RuthieJ said...

Oh Lynne, that must have been so cool. You must have hated having the day come to an end. The trumpeter swans are awesome and I love the sound those sandhill cranes make. I've only ever seen a couple at a time. Thanks for sharing this wonderful trip and photos with us.

dguzman said...

Wow, you Minnesotans get some great birds! Glad you had such a great trip.

Mary C said...

Hey Lynne - snow bunting? Wow! I'd like to add that one to my list. ;o) And those cranes - aren't they magnificent when flying in? They remind me of those glider planes (w/o engines) when they come in for a landing. Those birds look so awkward on the ground, but watching them flying overhead, especially in large numbers, is quite a sight to see. I am so looking forward to my trip to New Mexico in November for the Festival of the Cranes (held annually). I have to get my sandhill crane fix just about every year. I'm so glad you got that same opportunity to see these birds en masse. Thanks for sharing.

mon@rch said...

Very cool for sure and Love all your birds that you found. The swan picture is stunning!

nina said...

Wow, Lynne, how lucky you are. I've never seen Sandhill Cranes--I guess I'm too far east to catch them in their migrations.
But what an experiemce that must've been for you! (I would've cried)

Larry said...

Northern Shrikes! Thousands of Sandhill Cranes!-To think I spent hours trying to find just one. Sounds like a fantastic place.