Sandhill Cranes in Kentucky

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This past weekend, Harry and I thoroughly enjoyed the Sandhill Crane Weekend at Barren River Lake State Resort Park – about thirty-five miles southeast of Bowling Green, KY.

Greater Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis tabida) spend the winter in Florida, Tennessee and Georgia. Some of them stop in Kentucky each January and February as they head north to their breeding grounds in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Canada, and Alaska. Park officials estimated the current population at 4,600 birds.

Grus canadensis in KentuckyWe started the sunrise tour at 6 a.m. and drove near mud flats where the cranes roost. At first we could only hear their distinctive calls. With daylight began to see flock after flock leave the roost to feed. During the day we traveled backroads to see many birds in nearby fields.

grus canadensis tabida in KY cornfieldThe cranes are extremely wary and quick to take flight, so it wasn’t easy to get close to them. I captured all of these photos with a 100-400 mm camera lens that I rented from Murphy’s Camera.

three grus canadensis tabidaIt was a special treat to see them jump and “dance.” Were they practicing for courtship or possibly jumping for joy?

grus canadensis tabida

Finding cranes on our own would have been tricky and we are glad we did the tour. Park officials know the habits of the cranes and where to find them. If you are interested, there is another Sandhill Crane Weekend February 17-18, when the bird population is expected to reach about 12,000. Preregistration is required.

It was a fun weekend and I’m grateful to have seen and heard these awesome birds relatively close to home.

20 thoughts on “Sandhill Cranes in Kentucky”

  1. What amazing photos! How did you know, in advance, that you would need that lens that your rented? I’m impressed with your pre-planning. I’m going to forward this link to my brother and sister, both great birders, who will be delighted with your photographs. Thank you, as ever, for your wonderful blog!

    1. Ann, hope you get to see them sometime; I know you would enjoy. As to the lens, I know birds and most wildlife are often wary and keep their distance.Getting close enough for a good photo is a challenge. Thus, a big lens helps. Each of these images were also cropped to make the subjects seem even closer. Thanks for sharing with your sibs.

    1. Linda,I’m not in favor of them being hunted. However, I understand they are considered the filet mignon of the skies. So, I hope they are not being killed just for sport.

  2. What fantastic photos! I especially liked the “We Three Kings” strutting in such a royal manner; loved the captured dancing and the flock against the beautiful cold gray backdrop where they gathered on the flats. It saddens me to know they are considered such an edible delicacy – they feed so many more of our true hungers when left in the wild. Thank you for the perfect, arm-chair traveler’s cold-weather
    outing.

    1. Thank you, Beth. I would never have thought of the “We Three Kings” caption but I like it.And I’m glad the images provided an “outing”.

  3. Betty, those are awesome. We have a similar yearly gathering here in Farmington (Utah) except we get bald eagles. I have enjoyed watching them, especially the ones that come back to roost at night into the canyons when I’m hiking, but the largest congregations are at Farmington Bay and the outskirts. I must comment on Beth’s remark “they feed so many more of our true hungers when left in the wild” – what a beautiful thing to say. I’m writing it down on a sticky note and putting it up on my computer and sharing it with my like-minded friends. Lovely. Your pictures and blog evoke many good things!

    1. Thanks, Keli. Can imagine the gathering of eagles would be fun to see, as well as you spying them while out hiking. And thanks for your comments on Beth’s remarks. It’s good to get that kind of interaction.

  4. Gorgeous photos and brought me a real ‘pickup feeling’ in the midst of winter here in Southern Ontario. The cranes that are ‘jumping for joy’ especially made me smile – what a great idea if we all did that even once in a while eh! (Ann probably does this all the time…) I also really enjoyed reading all the comments – your photos present us with beautiful images and the admiring comments and prose are also inspiring. Thank you, one and all!

    1. What a nice comment, Marsha. So glad to have a reader from Southern Ontario. And yes, I think it would be great if we all jumped for joy now and then – psychologically if not physically! I don’t know if Ann jumps for joy but she certainly seems to carry a lot of joy with her and shares it readily. I, too, appreciate all the comments.Not sure I’d keep blogging without them. So, I too, thank one and all.

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