McGinnis Magic

Trumpeter Swans

After reading one birder’s report of McGinnis Slough being nearly under water, I decided to go see for myself. It was after 11:00 when I got there, so I didn’t expect to see many land birds, but you don’t necessarily go to McGinnis for land birds anyway.

Part of the flooded trail last Saturday.

The parking lot wasn’t flooded, in fact there were more cars there than usual. I got out of my car and started walking toward the water, and I saw the two Trumpeter Swans swimming slowly by – right in front of me. Normally these birds are way far away on the other side of the slough, visible only with binoculars if not a scope. I suppose they were checking out the other side of the pond now that the water had deepened it.

No sooner did I start taking pictures of the swans than I heard a commotion from behind where I was standing. Thus began several hundred if not eventually a couple thousand Sandhill Cranes passing overhead. This was the magical part. I am invariably stuck in the office when cranes are flying over, and now I had them practically all to myself.

Sandhill Cranes
As the groups of cranes began swirling above and around each other, there were what looked like some near collisions.

There were a few ducks close to the western edge, too, that I normally would not see.

Lesser Scaup female with a male Bufflehead in the background
Blue-Winged Teal
Greater Scaup
My only land bird photograph – a Black-Capped Chickadee

I walked as far as I could around the flooding and made it to the usual overlook where there were several young women who appeared to be part of a class outing. That explained the extra cars in the parking lot. They were absorbed in their conversation and I did not interrupt them. After my feast of birds I was not interested in trying to make out the usual dots on the water.

I have to start going back to McGinnis more often. It just occurred to me that on my last visit, there was hardly any water!

Sandhill Cranes

10 thoughts on “McGinnis Magic

  1. Thanks, Lisa. Last Saturday we were in Downers Grove visiting a daughter. We had a similar sandhill experience. there were hundreds of them joining up and circling at a relatively low altitude. It was a treat that lasted for some time. We’ve never seen that many at one time.

    • Thanks, Jim! Your description is perfect. I think it was longer than ten or fifteen minutes, but I was so mesmerized I didn’t even think to record their sound when they were right overhead. The only other time I have ever seen this many is at Jasper-Pulaski in the fall-winter migration when they come in to their staging area. For birds that dance on the ground, I think one could say they were dancing in the air over McGinnis. I will have to go back when the trail dries up and see if any are staying there as in previous years I have seen a couple.

  2. The McGinnis Slough and the extra water will be a magnet for aquatic birds, the only problem might be on how to access advantage points and get great pictures. The Sandhill Cranes flocks are impressive and well known for that. You’re fortunate to have seen them and photograph them. Great post Lisa. Thanks! 🙂

    • Thanks, H.J.! McGinnis is always a challenge for photographs because the birds tend to be way over on the other side of the largest body of water where the people aren’t, so in a way the flooding made it better. I don’t think I would have ever seen the swans so close. 🙂

    • Actually if not for the flooding I never would’ve seen the swans. My boots have a fine coating of McGinnis mud but it’s okay. I think it will be awhile before the trail has fully recovered.

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