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. 

Reader Comments

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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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