Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In Search of Sandhill Cranes

1. Sandhill cranes-kab Sandhill Cranes in Rowley, MA 11-29-11

I am more of a “Lister” rather than a “chaser” when it comes to bird watching, but every now and then I see a bird exciting enough for me to chase after it. When entering my eBird data on Monday I happened to notice that Sandhill Cranes were being spotted in a farm field in Rowley, Massachusetts. Since moving here over a year ago my eBird Life List for Massachusetts has grown from a meager 18 species to 158 species. Since I happen to love Sandhill Cranes and since I haven’t seen any since moving away from Arizona and since I would love to add this species to my Massachusetts Life List and since Rowley is only about 35 minutes away from my apartment I decided I would see if I could find them the next day.

2. Lake cochickewick-kabSouth end of Lake Cochichewick in North Andover 11-29-11

It was close to noontime when I finally set out for Rowley. On my way to Route 133 I took a short cut past lake Cochichewick in North Andover. I was not going to stop but when I saw a small flock of Ring-necked ducks at the south end of the pond I could not resist.

3. ring-necked ducks-kab Ring-necked ducks on Lake Cochichewick

I saw my first ring-necked ducks in Massachusetts just about 3 weeks ago at Baker’s Meadow. This is the third time I have seen this species since then. I only stayed for about 10 minutes, then hurried on my way. Once I rounded the end of Great Pond Road and turned east onto Route 133 I was driving into new territory.

4. Rowley farm field-kab Farm Field on west side of Route 1A north of Rowley, MA

My route took me through the small towns of Boxford and Georgetown, with typical New England architecture and stone walls. After having lived in the Sonoran Desert for 3 1/2 years I am still intrigued by the water I see everywhere. It seems there is a brook, bog, river or pond around every corner. It is never boring to go for a ride through the countryside in New England. NO, I did not stop to take pictures. I was on a mission to find birds! After reaching the intersection of routes 133 and 1A in Rowley I turned north. The cranes had been sighted in some farm fields between Rowley and Newbury. I had no idea what I would see or if I would find them, but I drove north anyways with anticipation beating in my heart like the wings of a a bird in a cage.

5. cranes out my window-kab First view of the cranes out my car window.

As I came around a corner just north of the village center I suddenly spotted them in a field on the right and close to the road. There were two other women stopped and looking and I really can’t remember if I saw the women or the birds first. The birds were so close to the road that I was able to just pull over and roll down my window to get my first shot.

6. sandhill cranes-kab After getting one shot off, I zoomed in for a close-up.


7. sandhill cranes in rowley-kab Sandhill Cranes in Rowley, MA 11-29-11

Though I could hear the sounds of blackbirds in  the trees, I was totally focused on these magnificent birds in front of me. They always seem so exotic to me. For me, they represent everything that is wild and good in America. If you have never heard the sound of sandhill cranes “garooing” your soul has missed the song of the wild.

8. crane-kab 

9. cranes eating-kab 

10. sandhill cranes-kab 

11. Moving off-kab As more and more people pulled over to see and photograph the cranes they casually moved off towards the edge of the woods.

12. blackbirds-kab I finally focused on the blackbirds to see if I could identify what species I was seeing. Since most of them were little more than dark silhouette’s against the sky it was hard for me to tell, but I did hear at least one Red-winged blackbird’s trill and I saw one Common Grackle as it broke off from the flock and flew directly over my head. I think the flock was a mixture of species and I entered it into eBird that way. What a racket they made!

13. grazing cranes-kab With the cranes far across the field I got back into my car and drove away.


14. bridge-kab Newbury Bridge over the Parker River on Route 1A

I crossed the bridge on Route 1A and turned into the Newbury Boat Launch to turn around. since I was here I decided to get out for a minute to see what I could see. I hoped to see a few birds, but it was fairly quiet.

15. river-kab View of the Parker River looking east.

There was nothing on the river…

16. pond-kab …and only a few juncos along the edge of this pond.


17. turtles-kab In the pond a few turtles tried to sun bathe, but there was little sun. Still, turtles in November! This is such weird weather! Though rain was predicted for later in the day, it was still 60F! In November!

18. pigeons-kab I found a flock of pigeons flying around as they emerged from their roost under the bridge and like them, I decided it was time for me to go home.

Please click on the link below to see more birds on…

World Bird Wednesday!

Oh, and the Sandhill Cranes make species number 159 on my Massachusetts Life List!


  1. Those Cranes are awesome. I've never seen or heard them. I love your jaunts out into the country.

  2. Hi Katie...Have you been enjoying these above normal temp's the last few days??
    The Sand Hill Cranes are fabulous looking birds 's..lucky you !!
    Fantastic photo of my neighboring state : }

  3. Wonderful shots of the cranes! Glad you found them!

  4. Love those Sandhill Crane images...oh and the turtles!

  5. Hi Kathie, awesome captures of the Sandhill Cranes. They are cool looking birds. Have a great day and happy birding.

  6. ...gorgeous photos of the cranes! Glad you chased them! ...and Turtles in late November is crazy!

  7. Gaelyn, I love virtually taking you along with me!

    Grace, these abnormal temps are freaking me out, though my husband is enjoying them and they sure are keeping the heating bills down!

    Kathryn, I am so glad I found them as well. What a sight to see here in MA!

    Birding is fun, Sandhill cranes in MA and turtles in November? Both are rare occurances.

    Thanks Eileen! I always have a great day when I am out birding.

    Kelly, I cannot believe I got to see them up so close! they were not timid at all! And the turtles in November just blow me away. It seems unnatural almost!

  8. Oh what a glorious sight! We have Sandhill Cranes in our area year round but they are extremely elusive. We hear them more than see them. Spectacular images of these amazing birds! Turtles in November how odd ... but a great surprise for you! Wonderful post!

  9. Beautiful shots, Kathie! I really like the red on their heads! It's a great contrast to the gray.

  10. Hi Kathie

    What wonderful shots, the cranes were really beautiful and you got such a good look at them. It looks like you had a really nice trip all round and seeing the turtles wow that is something. We are back to snow today.


  11. Wonderful! Such great shots of them. I've heard they will be in this area, too and hope to find some later.

  12. Awesome shots of the Cranes, Kathie! They are such beautiful birds and members of a great species - "Birds of Heaven" according to Peter Matthiessen.

  13. It sounds like a great day out looking for birds. The scenery is beautiful. The Sandhill Cranes are magnificent. Great photos.

  14. Wonderful birds to see Kathie... we even had one over here after the storms a few months ago...
    Your images are beautiful to see.

  15. Great close ups!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  16. Julie, I think that is the closest I have ever been to a sandhill crane! I have seen them in Idaho, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, but this is my first time seeing them in the northeast!

    HeyBJK, I so agree!

    Guy, I am sorry for your snow, yet thankful too, as that is how it should be! Seems a bit more natural!

    Mary, perhaps this pair will fly to where you are! I do not think they will linger here for long!

    Hilke, I like that reference to "birds of heaven."

    Mick thank you!

    Andrew, wow! that must have been a sight to see! Did it have its passport? LOL!

    Thanks Gary!

  17. 159 was a heck of a catch Kathie! Your Sandhills are so blue looking compared to the brownish birds I am used to seeing. The feather detail is so mosaic like. I was excited to hear cranes making their call for the first time this year and your right, it is unforgettable. Don't you wish every birding adventure went so well?

  18. We have a lot of Sandhill Cranes here in the summer, especially around Lake Huron. They nest close to our home too. I love hearing their call. Yours are so clean and white so they must have new feathers. They are usually dirty brown in the summer.

  19. Wow! You managed to get some great captures of these magnificent birds!

  20. Superb shots of the Cranes Kathie and the time of year makes a very interesting backdrop to the images.

  21. Well worth the twitch! Glad you saw these glorious birds in Ma! Hope you see the Snowies!

  22. Great shots of the Sandhill Cranes Kathie. Aren't they just fabulous bird? Just a tad smaller than our Brolgas that have the most amazing courtship dances.

    Sorry I have not been around more often. It has bee a distressing 2 months with my sister's brain tumour and the Prof's dementia. A pretty unfair combination.

  23. Hi Kathie,

    How wonderful to see these magnificant birds and you got such great shots. I got to see a pair in MN 2 summers ago. I agree with you about their sound. I love it and would love some day to go to one of their staging areas and hear a whole slew of them!

  24. Oh my gosh, another exciting find. Loved the photos.


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.