Sandhill Crane staging at Crex Meadows - Fall 2015

Pam and I headed to Crex Meadows wildlife Area this past Sunday, October 18, 2015.  Pam was able to get a few vacation days and we took the opportunity to head up to Crex. Fortunately the weather cooperated and we had clear and partly cloudy skies for the entire trip.

We arrived in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin at about lunch time and met up with our friends Marjorie and Dennis Doering at the Casino for some great chicken wings. To our surprise, the buffet at the casino on that day featured a crab and champagne brunch. After a little deliberation and discussion we decided to hit the buffet. After all it was less than $9.00 each. It was a wonderful brunch with some really tasty crab legs. We skipped the champagne but did manage to find some cheesecake for dessert. The stay at the casino got even better and after a little gambling we left with more cash than we arrived with. That is not a normal occurrence with us. After a nice visit we left the casino for Crex Meadows to check out the Sandhill Crane situation.

The wildlife area seemed a little busier with more traffic than we were used to. However, we are rarely there on weekends. We scoped out the area and arrived on the Main Dike Road at the south end of the refuge about an hour before sunset. Other cars were already present and more arrived as evening approached. Flock after flock of Cranes descended on the refuge for the night. The din from the crane calls, honking geese and quacking ducks penetrated the normal silence of the wildlife area.

I set up my tripod and camera on the dike and started clicking away. There were other photographers on the dike as well as observers and birders. Cars would slowly crawl down the gravel road with the occupants looking out and enjoying the sights and sounds of the refuge full of cranes. Other birders and viewers approached me occasionally for a look though my camera lens as I photographed the cranes and other wildlife. There was an air of excitement and awe as we all witnessed a wonder of nature. I noted that it is one thing to watch spectacular wildlife shows on television but quite another to be immersed in the middle of such a unique occurrence. There were cranes in front of us, behind us, to our left, to our right and flying over us. A word of warning when watching cranes float into the refuge over your head, no matter how amazed you feel, keep your mouth closed.

The cranes were still flying in when we left for the night as it was getting too dark to see them much less photograph them. We arrived back at the refuge just after sunrise on Monday morning and spent the day in the Wildlife area and also cruising the back roads south of Grantsburg, Wisconsin looking for the cranes feeding in the fields. We left for home early on Tuesday morning. Later on Tuesday I saw on Facebook that a Snowy Owl had been sighted near the refuge a matter of hours after we left. Since then I have noted a number of great Snowy Owl photos that were taken in the Wildlife area. I may have to make a quick solo run back there if the owl decides to hang around.

I have attached a selection of photographs from our trip in no particular order. Please click on the images to enlarge them.

There was still some great color in the area. Taken on Phantom Lake.
A large flock of Red-winged Blackbirds swirled around the refuge.

A flock of assorted ducks leaving the refuge.
Sandhill Cranes returning to the refuge.

A flock of Canada Geese flying out of the refuge.
Phantom Lake Road.
A Pied-billed Grebe feeding on a minnow.
Some of the Cranes were anxious to head out to feed early in the morning.
Trumpeter Swans were enjoying the nice weather.
Another Phantom Lake view.
Northern Harrier hunting south of Grantsburg.
The Cranes were quite bold feeding near this home.

Sandhill Crane family
A Bald Eagle did not mind being surrounded by cranes in the refuge.
Landing in the refuge.

Cranes dancing and doing their thing.


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