Tuesday, February 16, 2016

On The Wing: The Great Migration Of The Sandhill Crane

It's that time of year when cool mornings give way to pleasant afternoons in the warming sun. Some early spring flowers are already in bloom and even casual observation of the woods reveals a hint of color from rapidly expanding leaf buds. But not all of the activity is at ground level. It's time to look up, way up, for the magnificent Sandhill cranes

Over Atlanta, flocks ranging from a few dozen to as many as several hundred push north and northwest on their journey to summer habitats in the western Great Lakes and central Canada.  They are a pleasure to watch with their shapely "v" and wide arc formations as well as their "kettling" in uplifts prior to departure. In our woodland setting we always hear their distant croaking - "ka-roo, ka-roo, ka-roo" - that leaves us hoping they fly over our clearing. Most of the time they do because they fly high, sometimes into the thousands of feet. At those altitudes it's hard to imagine that you are looking at a bird that may stand five feet tall and soar on a seven foot wing span. Though there is a resident population of Sandhills in Georgia, several hundred-thousand will migrate from their wintering ground in Florida. Coming or going, they always bring a smile and leave us looking up for more.

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