It's been a warm week in Atlanta and that translates to afternoons on the patio. Several times the reading, sky-watching or quiet sunning has been pleasantly interrupted by the distant croaking of the last waves of Sandhill cranes pushing northwest to their summer habitats. Sandhills are enjoyable to watch with their shapely "v" or wide arced formations as well as their "kettling" or staging in uplifts as they to break out into formations.
In our woodland setting they're almost always heard - "ka-rooo, ka-rooo, ka-rooo" - before seen, a situation that leaves us hoping they will fly over our clearing. Most of the time they do because they fly high, very high, sometimes a thousand feet or more. At those altitudes it's hard to imagine that you're watching a bird that may stand over four feet tall and soar on a near-seven foot wing span.
Lately, the resident populations of Sandhills have been growing in the south. Their permanent numbers in Georgia are estimated to be in the thousands. Those that do migrate over Georgia this time of year are headed to their breeding grounds from the Great Lakes to the southern shore of Hudson Bay. Coming or going, they always bring a smile and leave us looking up for more.
Top photo, ducks.org
Map, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey, npwrc.usgs.gov
Bottom photo, Wildlife Resources Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources