Yesterday, a visit to the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Indiana was an encounter with the ethereal. Sandhill Cranes floated in from everywhere, small specks turning into hoards. Thousands of birds congregate in the field here in the early morning and again at dusk to socialize.
The sound of the cranes flying in was beautiful to hear. They are not songbirds, but their very existence is musical, from their high-pitched cries to the balletic way they float down from the sky.
Once on the ground it is hard to imagine anything tethering them; all they have to do is open their wings and the least bit of wind picks them up again. Sometimes they dance. Occasionally a Whooping Crane is mixed in with the crowd. There was no Whooper yesterday, but the sight of so many Sandhill Cranes was special enough.
When we first arrived and there was still some light, the congregation was sparse. As darkness fell, more birds gathered. In past years I have seen more than 10,000. Perhaps there were a little over half that yesterday, but still enough birds to be mind-boggling.
According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Sandhill Crane is not endangered in Indiana.