Labor Day is
ordinarily a day for picnics and family gatherings, and the Sandhill Cranes
decided to gather in the Great Marsh wetland on the corner of Beverly Drive
and Broadway, in Beverly Shores, during the late afternoon of September 7,
The birds started
flying into the marsh around 6:30 p.m., arriving in waves. The total number
visible from the boardwalk outlook was about 80 birds.
The recent drought
has resulted in lower water levels in the marsh.
This is a natural
occurrence in wetlands, which experience cycles of wetness, with standing
water, and mudflat conductions as they dry out.
Sandhill cranes are
omnivorous feeders and the recent drawdown of water exposed invertebrates
that are a major protein source for the birds.
There were a number
of juvenile birds in the flocks, which lack the red patch on their
Usually a gray
color, the feathers often get stained with soluble iron from their preening
after feeding in the muddy substrate, making some of their feathers a
reddish color (National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North
The birds will be
migrating south soon, gathering temporarily at Jasper Pulaski National
Wildlife Refuge in Jasper County.
Watch for these
elegant birds in various wetlands in NW Indiana!