With the last warm day and snow forecast for the rest of the week, I drove to Dayton and Spring City on business. On the way up, I saw two small flocks of cranes circling over Route 27 near the Hamilton County, Rhea County Line. I had heard that they were congregating at McDonalds Farm, which is near that juncture, but gave their presence little thought.
On my return, I saw numerous flocks of Sandhill Cranes circling over the same location. I turned off at the sign for McDonalds Farm and within 50 feet I found the landscape transformed. A field on the right held a flock of 100 or so, and I heard calls of cranes from further in. I rounded a corner and the cranes were there, in a long narrow field on the left. A cluster of several hundred stood back from the road, and then another and another. Some were within 100 yards of me as I slowly drove the road, stopping at times to glance to my left. With the windows down I could plainly hear them calling, but not as vocally as I have heard them at other times. I estimated the number of cranes at 10,000 or more. Another observer had sent out a message in which he placed the number at 15,000. He was there on a different day, and I can’t argue. I have never mastered the skill of counting large numbers of birds.