I took nearly a thousand pictures of Sandhill Cranes over the last couple of weeks and none were remarkable. No dancing. No cranes in flight. No young ones. What was remarkable was what beginning to happen within the crane population.
I started where I normally see my two cranes. It looked like they were laying down because just their heads were showing. I’ve learned, however, they were standing in a small valley.
I moved on and almost immediately, I saw another pair of cranes in a field down the road a bit. They too were a non-breeding pair without young ones.
I chuckled at the vocalizations going on between them. The weird sounds immediately brought Gracie to the car window to watch.
When I saw the third pair of cranes, I knew something was up. Late in the summer, Sandhill Cranes begin to abandon their nesting territories, and flock to staging areas to fatten themselves up for the migration south.
I next came upon four more cranes who were hunting and pecking for food in even another field. With so many cranes in the area, I surmised this area might be a "pre-staging" area.
There are several major staging areas in Jackson County. Over 80,000 cranes are known to congregate in marshlands there for their migration in November to Florida. I was guessing the cranes in our area are getting ready to fly to this staging area.
The Sandhills weren’t the only birds massing up. Across the road in another field, large numbers of geese were gathering. I don’t know what their migration process is like, but I think it is starting to happen with the geese too.
It was getting pretty dark for picture-taking, and by this time in the evening the group of four had grown to eight. It will be interesting to watch what happens as migration nears for Michigan’s largest birds.