As always, click the photo to enlargeA squadron of Sandhill Cranes drops the landing gear and parasails to the ground. There, they will join several thousand of their comrades. Perhaps 30,000 birds are in the general area. In an age-old ritual, cranes gather in early winter in the big prairie marshes of northwest Indiana. They fill the air with loud bugles punctuated by the keening jangly trills of juveniles. Family units are still intact, and the juveniles will stay with their parents into next spring.
I'm at Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife Area near Medaryville, Indiana, for a few days. I arrived in time for the evening crane show, where thousands of birds assemble in a giant field for socializing before flying to nearby marshes for the night. Skies are gray and there'll be rain tonight, but I'm hoping for at least a day of blue skies. Cranes in flight photograph much better then. I'm also visiting the amazing Kankakee Sands area about an hour to the west, on the Illinois state line. The Nature Conservancy has done remarkable restoration work here, and I'm looking forward to seeing it in this season. I've only been once, in July. The primary target of that trip was the rare Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia). You can see some photos of the frit, and the prairie, RIGHT HERE.