2017 Exploring Jasper-Pulaski Indiana Sandhill Crane and Dunes, Vicki-Penziner Matson Field Trips | Earlham College
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Exploring Jasper-Pulaski Indiana Sandhill Crane and Dunes — 2017

Trip Synopsis :

Crane -watching

The Vicki Penziner-Matson Fund supported this fall's (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.

Iverson -explainsIn 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.

Group -imageLater 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.

Group -walkingSeveral 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.

“This weekend I felt so lucky to have so many special experiences: the endless flocks of sandhill cranes landing in front of us were one of the most magnificent things I have ever seen, I gained a new appreciation for Indiana geology while visiting the dunes, and I found myself developing new friendships with other Earlhamites. I will remember this weekend forever!” — Lilly

List of Fauna and Flora


Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk 
American Kestrel
Sandhill Crane (4500+)
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Downy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker 

Distinctive trees and shrubs of the area:

Black Oak, Pin Oak, White Oak, Quaking Aspen, River Birch, Winterberry Holly and Buttonbush


Midland Painted Turtle and Bull frog

A more detailed account of the experience can be found here.

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