Monday, November 7, 2011

Weekend at Crex Meadows

On the last weekend of October, we took a trip to Crex Meadows Wildlife Area near Grantsburg, Wisconsin to catch the Sandhill Crane migration. We left early Saturday morning so we could be there in time to see sunset arrival cranes at their nighttime roosting areas in the refuge. We got there early enough to take a drive through the park and observe some other birds. At one area where we stopped, we got to see some Trumpeter Swans.

Trumpeter Swans can be seen at Crex most of the year (except winter), so we felt fortunate to be able to see them this close before their migration to warmer climes.

Holly isn't much of a bird dog, but she kept my seat warm in the car while I was out taking pictures!

About an hour before sunset, the cranes started arriving. We were at the wrong part of the refuge for the first part of this, but after driving around a bit more and seeing where all the other cars were parked, we did manage to catch quite a few of the cranes still arriving before it was too dark.

There were cranes everywhere! Here with "landing gear" down......

A group of cranes takes a walk across the marsh.

Here's a nice shot of a large flock in silhouette against the twilight sky. It's magical so see and hear so many Sandhill Cranes at one time!

Sunday morning brought another chilly and cloudy day, but we did head back out to Crex before the rain moved in. We saw a few more cranes and some waterfowl, but the biggest thrill for me was this flyover of a first year Rough-Legged Hawk.

I felt privileged to be able to capture these shots of this beautiful raptor who had made its migration journey all the way south to Wisconsin after being hatched earlier this year somewhere near the Arctic Circle.

Be sure to add Crex Meadows Wildlife Area and to your birding "must see" list on your next visit to Wisconsin!


Allen and Debby Graber said...

The sandhill cranes come to our part of the world too, at Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivera Nat'l Waterfowl Refuge here in mid Kansas. We love to watch them! A couple of weeks ago, we saw the white pelicans.

Gaelyn said...

Seeing all those cranes must have been spectacular, whether Holly likes them or not. And the hawk was a real bonus.

Guinifer said...

We have a place in Stone Lake, WI and drive through Grantsburg most weekends starting in May and on and off through the Fall and Winter. Two Summers ago the lack of rain was so bad that it was pretty hard to find any of the swans. Just this last year the Cranes have been very abundant.

Lisa said...

LOVE your photos. They are simply beautiful.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Allen & Debby, you're lucky to see the sandhill cranes so close to where you live. I love seeing the white pelicans too -- have heard there are still a few migrating through the Mississippi flyway near LaCrosse, so hopefully will get a chance to see them in a couple weeks on the annual visit to see tundra swans.

Thanks Gaelyn, spectacular for sure! Holly's a good ride-along partner even if she's not much of a birder.

Lucky you Guinifer! There were quite a few places for sale near Grantsburg. I would seriously consider moving there just to be closer to Crex Meadows -- it's such a special place.

Thank you Lisa!

Mollie said...

Great photos! Glad you live so close to such a beautiful place. Is Grantsburg near the Mississippi? And your dog Holly is such a honey. I loved reading about her adventures at dog park! What a good girl. My dog doesn't play at all with other dogs, which is a sadness, but that's how she came--it's the chihuahua in her. Because I LOVE to watch dogs play together. And yes, Mojo and Holly were quite handsome together.

stephen said...

Good to see that you had a definite successful trip to Crex Meadows. It's thrilling to view your wonderful images of so many Cranes, the Swans, and the Hawk.
I've added the Crex as a must visit spot!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mollie,
Grantsburg is a ways from the Mississippi, but closer to the St. Croix I think. That's probably why it's a good stopping spot for these migrating birds because of the larger bodies of water. I think it's a real bird hot spot in the spring migration too and I really need to plan a visit there next spring.
Holly's teacher recommended taking her to the dog park. Once a week in class for an hour isn't enough socialization for her. She needs to learn to "play well with others."

Hi Stephen,
Yes, you definitely must visit Crex Meadows some day, esp. since you're about 2 hours closer than I am! There's a dog-friendly (& inexpensive) motel there, so we do the overnite thing to catch the sunset & sunrise bird activity.

Taos Sunflower said...

Ruthie: Those cranes spend their winters down in the southern part of NM...I do believe you need to come see them there one year! Great photo of the hawk. I am in awe.

RuthieJ said...

I DO need to come to NM & see them sometime Martie! The festival at Bosque would be a good one for me I think.

Mary C said...

Ruthie - after reading about your trip and enjoying the lovely photos I realized how much I missed not going to the Bosque this year. I sure hope to go next year during the crane festival. I will admit that you would certainly do better there than I have in the past. Be prepared for mighty chilly weather when you go! :-)