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Cranes hang around North Barrington for the holidays

Barrington North columnist Barbara Benson and her German Shepherd CH Anne-Isles Ingo v. Kenlyn.

Barrington North columnist Barbara Benson and her German Shepherd CH Anne-Isles Ingo v. Kenlyn.

It seemed almost certain, that by now, Sandhill cranes had all followed the southbound thermals to winter in warmer climates.

But some it seems, take chances and stay around the Barrington area longer, perhaps hoping that so much flying will not be necessary. So imagine my surprise, when, on the morning before Thanksgiving, as I was looking out of my kitchen window about 7 a.m., scanning the marshes to the north of us, about 15 Sandhills dropped down one after another, to rest and feed there.

It was a cold morning, and the birds hunched down, only briefly stretching upward for a few feet of their distinctive strutting. Otherwise, they were clearly pecking away at the grasses and areas where a little moisture still remained, and perhaps some grubs and snails, their preferred food.

With great excitement I emailed Sam Oliver at Citizens for Conservation: “Sandhill Surprise.”

To my knowledge, even for a while, there has rarely been so many of the giant birds together in this area. Checking through my binoculars I know that they were out there for more than two hours, but I did not hear or see them leave. I wish I had seen their direction.

There is a postscript to this. Before I wrote this Dec. 5, I was outside about 2 p.m. with my Shepherds, when I heard a distinctive noise. I have always called it a trilling sound, coming closer and closer. Not too high above us, and weaving in a southeasterly direction, were two large flocks of cranes. Maybe there were more, perhaps some of you heard and saw them.

My theory is that they also had lingered too long in northern areas, and now, with the terrible storms, cold and snows sweeping across the plains, instinct told them that it was time to go. They can prairie feed in winter, but not when deep snow drifts cover one of their sources of sustenance.

Sometimes it amazes me how soon they come back, often in early March. The regulars in our area are not shy about announcing their arrival, early in the morning! They can certainly sideline roosters. But I always feel so fortunate to hear them, and to be in a place where enough open space is preserved that is hospitable to them. That means, of course, Citizens for Conservation, our Forest Preserves and numerous other groups.

Also a treasured part of my environment, are my books, and a couple of years ago, browsing (and buying) as I often do at The Pink Geranium on Lageschulte Street, I came across a remarkable book, now in my collection.

Carl-Albrecht von Treuenfels’ “The Magic of Cranes” was published in a special Lufthansa (German Airlines) edition. It contains some of the most extraordinary photographs of crane species across the world, including some taken at the Necedah National Wildlife Reserve in Wisconsin and along the Platte River in Nebraska. I wonder who gave this book up “for adoption,” if you happen to be reading this, it is home for as long as I live!

My next column will appear the day after Christmas, if you have a special story that you would like me to include, write to me: barbaralbenson@aol.com, otherwise I will do my year-end reprise about the volunteer groups that have Barrington North connections, whether by location or volunteer participation.

Meanwhile, as is still said in the UK, a “Very Happy Christmas” to all.

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