The Sandhill Crane Migration Invades Michigan

Get your cameras ready -- The Haehnle Sanctuary expects to see as many as 6,000 cranes as the sandhill crane migration moves through Michigan this October and early November.

On October 15, 2012, Michigan residents and visitors lined up at Haehnle Sanctuary west of Chelsea to watch 2,586 Sandhill Cranes fly into a wetland area to rest up for their yearly migration south. This is not the count of cranes for the month of October, but the official count from Sanctuary officials for this one day in October. As the month progresses and we turn the corner into November, the Sanctuary expects up to 6,000 Sandhill Cranes to start flying into this area on a daily basis.

Sandhill Cranes represent one of the largest groups of cranes living in the United States. They have gray bodies, but their heads are topped with red so they are easy to identify. They dwell in the northern states throughout the summer, and then make the journey to Florida, California, and other southern states when the weather starts to turn cold.

They stop at wetland staging areas at key points along this migratory journey to breed and store up energy for the rest of their journey south. About 20 miles west of Chelsea, Michigan, there is a beautiful staging area operated by the Haehnle Sanctuary. This expansive wetland area offers a safe viewing point for those interested in witnessing the yearly take off for thousands of migratory cranes.

If you are looking for interesting things to do in Michigan this fall or you enjoy nature photography or bird watching, consider taking I-94 north of Race Road to find the Sanctuary at 8746 Seymour Road. Visit in the evening when the cranes will be actively flying into the wetlands by the thousands. If you visit on the weekends, the Sanctuary will have knowledgeable greeters at the observation point to ensure all of your questions are answered.

You can also view the cranes at various points of the Waterloo Recreation Area. Look on the Haehnle Sanctuary website for regularly updated maps showing where the cranes can be viewed on a daily basis. In the upcoming week you can expect to see more than 2,000 of these cranes flying into this area every single evening. If you wait a week or two to make the trip you could be one of the lucky visitors who get to see 5,000 or even 6,000 cranes venturing into one natural area together.

Some amazing pictures have been snapped at the Sanctuary’s observation hill in previous years, but this year is one for the record books. 2010 was a record-setting year in terms of the crane counts seen at the Sanctuary.

So far this season, the evening counts have been higher than those of 2010, so you can catch more cranes in one spot than ever before in the final weeks of October and the beginning days of November.

For more information, you can check out their website at

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