Sandhill Crane Watch at Crossroads

Crossroads at Big Creek is becoming increasingly inviting to birds. Plant succession, combined with efforts of volunteers and staff, are returning the preserve to a more natural state. Summer birds are taking advantage of the habitat restoration.

For several years, the upland areas around the Astronomy Campus have been a destination for birdwatchers searching for Woodcocks, Dickcissels, Bobolinks, and a variety of sparrow. The most gratifying addition to the bird list is the Sandhill Crane. Cranes have been foraging regularly in the upland area near the Astronomy Campus.

If sandhills are around, guests will probably notice them. Depending on how they are holding their long necks, they stand three to five feet tall. The birds are grey, though their feathers sometimes are stained with mud and appear brownish. Adult sandhill cranes have striking patches of red skin on their foreheads.

Sandhill Cranes will eat anything and everything available, so when they are in the floodplain wetlands along Big Creek, they are dining on frogs, snakes and aquatic invertebrates. When they visit the uplands near the Leif Everson Observatory, they are enjoying an all-you-can-eat banquet including insects, small mammals, eggs and baby birds, seeds, berries. leaves, and tubers.

Hikers can explore the upland area of the preserve by parking in the lot of Michigan Street and hiking through the colorful prairie on Ole’s Trail.

For more information about Crossroads, call 920.743.5895.