Tag Archives: Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Cranes (not at Montrose but not far away), November 22, 2021

Sandhill Cranes

Migrating Sandhill Cranes over Chicago. Taken at Graceland Cemetery. (click to see the larger version)

A big push of Sandhill Cranes took place over Chicago on November 22, 2021. These birds were migrating en masse, responding to an intense cold front and strong northwest winds, typical behavior for Sandhills in late fall. When I started to see flocks from my apartment around noon I walked over to Graceland Cemetery to get a better look. From Graceland I could see multiple flocks drifting south one to two miles to the west and 300 to 500 feet high, possibly following the Chicago River or Western Avenue (the photo shows how I was seeing them). We rarely get big numbers of Sandhills like this at Montrose, unless the wind is blowing very hard from the west, and it wasn’t on November 22.

Sandhill Crane migration is fairly predictable in late fall – be alert for strong cold fronts with west winds. They also seem to move better on days with clear or at most partly cloudy skies. Heavy overcast and precipitation discourage them from flying.

Weather and Birding Forecast, November 12 – 14, 2021

A strong cold front will move through Chicago over the weekend of November 12 – 14. Daily high temperatures will be in the low 40s and winds will be westerly, at least for Saturday and Sunday, and in the 10 to 15 mile per hour range. This is an excellent setup for a late fall push of birds. These conditions often produce Short-eared Owls and Franklin’s Gulls, and we could see a few hawks migrating down Lake Michigan, especially Northern Harriers. Sandhill Cranes also move on these conditions, though we rarely see large numbers of them at Montrose. There’s always the possibility of something extraordinary showing up – it is November after all.

Sandhill Cranes (not from Montrose, but close), October 28, 2020

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes (click to see the larger version)

I live on the outskirts of Wrigleyville in Chicago, about a mile from Montrose Point and its famous bird sanctuary. My third-floor apartment offers a decent and relatively unobstructed view to the west. When I’m home I often look out my windows to see if anything is flying by. I’ve had some interesting birds and birding experiences over the years – Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons, big flights of Common Nighthawks in late summer, and when the conditions are right, flocks of Sandhill Cranes in late fall. On the morning of October 28, 11 Sandhills came in from the north, not far from my apartment building. Sandhill Cranes are less common close to Lake Michigan – I rarely get large flights of them, unless the wind is strong and from the west, which it was on October 28. When those conditions occur, and I have time to look, I sometimes see hundreds or even thousands moving south. I didn’t have a lot of time that day, so those 11 Sandhills were all I saw.

If you live in Chicago and want to see Sandhill Cranes, check the skies from late October to early December on days with strong west winds following the passage of a cold front. You might see them under other weather conditions but they move en masse on days with west winds, the stronger the better.

Red-throated Loons, Sandhill Cranes, Le Conte’s Sparrow, and Western Meadowlark, April 1, 2017

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes (click to see the larger version)

I spent an enjoyable morning at Montrose today, April 1. It was on the chilly side, but the sun was out and the birding was productive. I ended up with 46 species in about 3 hours, highlights including:

White-winged Scoter – group of 9 flying north
Red-throated Loon – group of 4 flying north
Common Loon – 6 flying north
Sandhill Crane – 2 flying south over the point
Bonaparte’s Gull – group of 9 flying north
Le Conte’s Sparrow – 1 in the dunes
Western Meadowlark – 1, seen and heard singing in the dunes

The bird of the day goes to the Western Meadowlark. I’ve only had a couple WEMEs in my 30+ years birding Montrose, so this is a pretty good bird for me. The Sandhill Cranes and Le Conte’s Sparrow were nice bonus birds. Link to my eBird checklist below.

eBird Checklist
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S35609386

Sandhill Crane, March 13, 2015

Sandhilll Crane

Sandhill Crane (click to see the larger version)

The Sandhill Crane found standing on the ice inside Montrose Harbor yesterday was still there this morning, March 13. I’ve seen some strange things at Montrose but this has to rank near the top of the strangeness meter. Sandhill Cranes aren’t all that rare at Montrose but the ones we do see are always flying over. In all the years I’ve birded there I think I’ve seen them on the ground just once. Not so strange were the 4 or 5 White-winged Scoters at the harbor mouth.