The Cranes Have Landed

As Sandhill cranes make their spring migration from Florida back to their breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska, they are often seen and heard overhead in The Parklands. One of only two species of crane found in North America, Sandhill cranes are known for their trumpeting call and for migrations, completing a biannual 3,000+-mile journey. Completing this kind of journey requires many pit stops. But, cranes cannot stop just anywhere for rest. They need high quality habitat undisturbed by human influence. It is this type of habitat that keeps crane populations from declining and possibly disappearing altogether.

That is why I was delighted to learn that Parklands visitors Christina and Jeremy Clark witnessed a flock of 61 Sandhill cranes land in the Humana Grand Allee wetlands in Beckley Creek Park last Thursday, February 15, 2018. While out for an evening walk Christina and Jeremy bore witness to a first for The Parklands.  According to Christina, “My husband (Jeremy) saw the entire flock of cranes about 100 feet above the pond turn 180 degrees and then make a shallow approach and land on the northwest corner of the pond at North Wetland.” 

Photo Courtesy of Christina and Jeremy Clark

The video below shows the cranes as they approach their landing spot in the wetlands. Three cranes are lagging behind the rest of the group, so they must have stopped for a quick rest. You can make out the distinct trumpeting call of the cranes even through the overwhelming chorus of Spring peepers.

Video Courtesy of Christina and Jeremy Clark

“We, unfortunately, do not have images of the cranes on the pond because they flew away only 1-2 minutes after landing, and also, we were too excited to see them unexpectedly,” said Christina. “We are not sure why they flew off, but think it was due to people quietly walking the trails that run parallel to the Boardwalk. Or perhaps the 3 lagging cranes had enough of a break from flying.”

Photo Courtesy of Christina and Jeremy Clark

Seeing the Sandhill cranes up close and personal had quite an effect on both Christina and Jeremy. In fact, according to Christina, “the experience motivated me and Jeremy to take an extra interest in conservation. During the days after our crane sighting we joined not only the International Crane Foundation but, also as members of The Parklands so that we can help protect these beautiful birds and their habitat”. 

Cranes flying over The Parklands. Photo by Jeff Mattingly.

Even though it was a quick stop for the cranes, it is a first for The Parklands! While we sometimes hear them overhead, this is the first time the cranes have landed within park boundaries. This event stands as a testament to the amazing work done by The Parklands natural areas team for creating and maintaining habitat of high enough quality that we can witness one of nature’s most amazing migrations in an urban setting.

Thanks to Christina and Jeremy for sharing such a wonderful experience with us!

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About the Author

Picture of Curtis Carman

Curtis Carman

As Director of Education, Curtis Carman oversees The Parklands Outdoor Classroom, promoting STEAM-based education through engaging, hands-on learning both outdoors and inside the classroom. Each year, his team of Education Specialists, Interpretive Rangers and Camp Counselors guide nearly 20,000 participants of all ages through school field trips, camps, Parklands Explorer, Junior Explorer and Wednesday Wonders. Prior to his promotion to Education Director in May of 2018, Curtis first joined The Parklands team as an Interpretive Ranger and led the department as Education Coordinator for three years. A native of Louisville and a graduate of Ballard High School, Curtis returned to his hometown after having worked as an environmental educator in Maine and Colorado at Acadia and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Curtis also served as Membership Manager at the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Curtis enjoys hiking, biking, camping and kayaking.