My grandfather loved birds. He used to bird watch and enjoyed learning about them. This love of birds was passed down to my mom. It was with knowing this that our old neighbors, years ago, first took my parents to see the Sandhill Cranes at the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area. We have since gone as a family about three times before going for the fourth time this past week. Always the week before or of Thanksgiving. Each time we are amazed by what we see.
It was a spur of the moment plan that we decided to go. Waking up to a warmer day than what we have been experiencing lately we got encouraged to take advantage and go see the Sandhill Cranes. We made sure to have our warm boots on, thick gloves, and to bring the binoculars. Helped the dog into the car and drove the just above an hour’s drive.
We were shocked by how many cars were in the parking lot. I had never seen it that busy before. We talked about hoping to get a good viewing spot as we walked the short pretty path that connects the parking lot to the observation platform. When we emerged from the wood, we saw that people were lined up all along the top of the structure and along the bottom. Many people had their camera posed for the ready to capture their desired shots of the birds. Thankfully, we found a spot under the top platform that gave us a great view of the field in front of us.
Since we had arrived at around 3:30pm our time/4:30pm their time, there weren’t too many birds yet. A small group of Sandhill Cranes were gathered in the middle back of the field with quite a large herd of deer grazing nearby. In past years we have also seen wild turkeys.
As the sun slowly descended towards the earth the birds started to arrive in droves. Wave after wave of them flew low over our heads, making their bugle like calls, and doing wide circles over the field before gracefully landing. With binoculars clasped in our hands and perched on our noses, we watched the birds greet one another and interact with each other. My mom said it was like watching a nature show on PBS. A lady with her family was standing next to us and told us it was even more amazing to watch them in the early morning because that is when they take off in flight to continue their journey south. I made a mental note to remember to do that next year.
Everyone was leaning against the wood in eagerness to catch everything that was going on. And what a scene provided. The birds with their long lean bodies and grey and red feathers ruffled by the cold breeze. Their elegant movements along with sun casting stunning colors. In years past we had brought with us coffee and hot chocolate to enjoy while we gazed at the wildlife. We were kicking ourselves for not doing it again this year.
The temperature was dropping along with the sun and it was becoming harder to see the Sandhill Cranes. We took one last look at the mass of majestic birds and walked back to the car. The sky had pink and orange colored clouds with touches of dark purple cascaded across the darkening sky as we drove away. “Now it feels like the week of Thanksgiving,” my mom said.
Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area is located at 5822 N. Fish and Wildlife Lane Medaryville, IN 47957. Best viewing times are at dawn or at dusk.