Sandhill Crane and Indiana Dunes – 2017 Synopsis

The Vicki Penziner-Matson Fund supported the 2017 Sandhill Crane and Indiana Dunes Field Trip on November 11-12. Wendy Tori, Andrea Ball, Jose Ignacio Pareja and John Iverson led the trip. Participants included faculty, alumni, students, and Earlham family and friends for a total of 36 people.

The group saw a great gathering of Sandhill Cranes on the first morning before they begin leaving to the adjacent farmland to feed. After enjoying this gathering display of the cranes, they slowly drove the rural roads outside the refuge to observe flocks of cranes feeding in agricultural fields.

In contrast to previous years, some of the fields had not yet been harvested, so we saw few groups of Sandhill cranes. In addition because of global warming, the migration of the cranes is happening almost a month later than was in the 90s.

In the afternoon, the group walked on a beautiful wide trail back around the marshes and lakes on the refuge. They were able to find some amphibians and reptile remains. After a conversation about natural history by John on these two species we moved further into the woods. They had great looks at two Bald Eagles perched over the lake and we also saw a few other species of trees and birds (Blue jays, Bluebirds, Downy woodpeckers). The almost frozen lake shore provided a time for group members to explore the amazing sounds that stones will make when bounced off the ice and participate in an ice throwing contest.

Later that afternoon, the group went to the public viewing platform to watch the cranes aggregate on a large pasture and the nearby cornfields. There were approximately 5,000 cranes arriving from feeding areas in all directions. Many flew right over their heads. The cranes gathered a bit further from the platform than most years, but people were still able to grasp the magnitude of the group while also being able to observe individual cranes with the spotting scopes.

Several folks on the trip had never seen this aggregation. The group also observed the interaction between a herd of deer, the cranes, and a small pack of coyotes. After experiencing this amazing display the group drove to our night accommodations.

The following morning, the group hiked the amazing naturescape and learned about some amazing natural history and succession stories, then headed back to Richmond.

View trip report.

List of Fauna and flora

Canada GooseAmerican KestrelEuropean Starling
Mute SwanSandhill Crane (4500+)American Tree Sparrow
MallardRing-billed GullRed-winged Blackbird
Pied-billed GrebeRock PigeonCommon Grackle
Great Blue HeronRed-bellied WoodpeckerAmerican Goldfinch
Turkey VultureAmerican CrowHouse Sparrow
Bald EagleCarolina ChickadeeDowny Woodpecker
Northern HarrierEastern BluebirdRed-bellied Woodpecker 
Red-tailed Hawk American Robin

Distinctive trees and shrubs of the area

Black OakWhite OakRiver Birch
Pin OakQuaking AspenWinterberry Holly and Buttonbrush


Midland painted turtle
We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.
We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.