Walking in Circles - Ghost Fliers in the Skies

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By Dave Coulter

Rough Edges

Late last week I heard Sandhill Cranes flying over Oak Park.  It took some doing to spot them. They were way up high and flying fast, riding the winds, bearing northwest-to-southeast. There were maybe fifty birds spread out in two loose flocks, and they were gone before I knew it.

Depending on where you are there are times when these cranes are elusive.  I heard my first cranes passing over town over a week ago, but their cries were faint and soon drowned out by the competing muffled roar of a passing jet.  I didn’t see the cranes or the jet, but even with my below average hearing I knew they were up there somewhere.

The winter birds are coming through.   There was quite a flurry of excitement over the weekend on the local birding list servers over the sightings of a Snowy Owl down by Montrose Harbor and Whooping Cranes in DeKalb County.   The sight of either creature would be a lifetime achievement as far as I’m concerned and it’s all the more remarkable that these winged apparitions are so nearby. A couple years ago I saw a lone Whooping Crane flying south with a flock of Sandhills over Woodfield Mall. So I guess if it can happen there it can happen anywhere?

Yesterday we went hiking around Volo Bog.  E and I both have a soft spot for cranes, and we were not disappointed.  We saw a group of cranes taking off maybe a quarter mile away.  In the binoculars I saw a dark wing tip, and E saw a flash of white wing. Did we see a Whooper? Don’t know.  Too far away to be certain, but like the DeKalb visitor, there are some passing through.   

It’s a wondrous thing and our hike was more than rewarded an hour later when a flock of Sandhills buzzed low over us, croaking like Pterodactyls, as they looked for a landing spot in the marsh. They were so close that E could see their beaks open as they called.   

And while charismatic cranes and opulent owls are on the wing the less flashy birds -  Juncos and American Tree Sparrows - are back in town now.  Low to the ground, and as accessible as ever.  The leaves may be down but there are still lots of reasons to keep looking up. 

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Dave Coulter  

Posted: November 23rd, 2011 10:59 AM

That is a great tip!

maureen kolbusz from Oak Park  

Posted: November 23rd, 2011 10:52 AM

You can see thousands of sandhill cranes in the Jasper-Pulaski Park in Indiana (it's about 2 hours away) best time is at sunset.

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