This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sandhill Cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area

October and November are the prime time to view the sandhill cranes at the Jasper Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area that is about twenty miles northeast of Rensselaer.

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday I re-visited the area and got to see the birds at sunset. My daughter-in-law was so excited about them that she went back the next day to take more pictures. Most of the pictures in this post are hers.

The crowd in the morning was smaller than the crowd at sunset. My daughter-in-law has a very nice camera, but she was intimidated by the photographic equipment that many others had. Look at the size of some of those lenses.

When she got there a bit after sunrise, there were still thousands of birds in the field. The field is fenced and off-limits to visitors, but there is a viewing platform plus a very large parking lot for visitors.

A picture like the one below is beyond the reach of my humble digital cameras. Click on it for an even larger version.

The previous evening as the birds were settling down for a long winter's nap, there was equipment in the adjoining field harvesting. It made an interesting contrast. The field is part of Jasper-Pulaski.

In the evening the big birds are beautiful against the orange sky of the sunset.

During the day, the birds feed in neighboring fields and then they return to the refuge to overnight. The flights of birds come in for hours.

Occasionally there are large bursts of birds landing at the same time. The sandhill traffic control does not seem to be very effective in spacing them out.

The picture shows the observation platform in the evening after people had started leaving. Half an hour earlier people were jostling for spots along the rail.

Here is a an article on the cranes in the Chicago Wilderness Magazine. (Their pictures are not as good as the ones above.) Also, Jasper-Pulaski is on my top-ten list for the Rensselaer area.

Update: Two people who live in the area told me that sandhill cranes had eaten koi from their ornamental ponds. It is not just grain in the fields that the birds are eating.

Also, someone who lives up that way says that there areas outside of the Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife Area that smaller numbers of cranes congregate at night.

Finally, in some states you can hunt sandhill cranes, but you better be very careful not to shoot a whooping crane. There is a very large fine for that.


reMark said...

Excellent post. When I was at Purdue in the late 80's, I was going to be a writer. Most everyone from the creative program had a sandhill crane poem in their repertoire.

I love the cranes and miss teaching about them. If interested, the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo Wisconsin (I think) has the premier info in the country on cranes in North America. The link is

g said...

Beautiful pictures, Sarah.

Sheila said...

Wow! I have heard about the sandhill crane migration for years, but never realized how huge it was! Thanks for sharing!

Desert Survivor said...

Those photos are fantastic!

Anonymous said...

I too am jealous of a good camera. My photos of the cranes are so pathetic after seeing your. Wow, wow, and more wow!!!

Anonymous said...

I am the editor of and in the September issue we are doing a story about the Sandhill cranes. Would it be possible for us to use 4 of your photos? We would credit you.
Photos provided by [your name].
Please let me know asap as we will upload very soon. You can reach me at Check out our publication!

Anonymous said...

Feb. 10 around 5pm, My husand and I saw a big flock of sandhill cranes flying over Dayton, IN and the campus library next to Mendards and the mall in Lafayette. Isn't it early???