The Cranes of Wild Winter

Well, it’s January in Canada, full winter, and the family of sandhill cranes that nest in the pond are still here!  Sandhill cranes are migratory.  According to the bird info, cranes in this region ought to have flown off to Florida long ago. These ones must have missed the memo.

Three day blizzard with 90 kph winds and fiercely blowing snow. How did the cranes live through this?

Most surprising, they have just weathered the worst blizzard Ontario has had since 1977.  A three day extravaganza with blowing snow, winds howling up to 90 kph and snow drifting to shoulder height. All the roads were closed because the snowplows couldn’t cope.  Electricity failed. Nothing ventured out until the wild weather finally calmed down and people could dig their way into daylight.

The morning after the winds died down. Massive drifts and ground covered with snow

With the pond frozen solid, I can’t imagine how the cranes rode out this vicious wintry blast.  They must have huddled together somewhere without food for the better part of a week.  All the hungry small birds swarmed the bird feeders the moment the wind died back.

After a few days of above freezing temperatures melted much of the snow, the cranes appeared foraging as usual. What a hardy lot!

All sensible migratory birds should have been long gone. Even when, after the blizzard, the temperature took a sudden turn upward and hung at 5 to 7 degrees Celcius, making the snow begin a rapid melt.  Large swathes of bare ground began to emerge.  And, as soon the pasture grass was clear, there were the three cranes, poking about as though it were a summer day looking no worse for the wear.

How I would like to know how and where they huddled during the blizzard, not getting their long legs frozen off.  Another avian mystery. With at least two more hard months of winter ahead, I will be very curious about whether they care to weather more storms or finally hear the sunny climes of Florida calling to join their relatives where the living is easy and snow unknown. 


2 thoughts on “The Cranes of Wild Winter”

  1. Unbelievable!!! They should be in Florida for sure. Having a great time. My 2023 total for Ontario & US was 350. Will be cruising on Sat. Cheers

  2. Sandhill Cranes are tough ol’ birds. Still a remarkable story though, given the conditions they had to survive. In 2013, two were seen throughout January foraging in corn fields along Benway Crossroad, between Greer & Danforth.

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