Manitoulin Nature Club embarks on sandhill crane watching outing

Members of the Manitoulin Nature Club met recently to embark on a field trip to see sandhill cranes. photo by Betty Bardswich

by Betty Bardswich

MANITOULIN—Several members of the Manitoulin Nature Club met at the Manitoulin District Cenotaph on Monument Road October 3 to embark on a field trip to see sandhill cranes.

Club member Chris Bell explained that the members were to drive around in convoy to look for these birds and would drive west around Beaver Road and then up to Spring Bay. The outing was to conclude with the vehicles parked in position on the road to watch the cranes at sunset as they fly towards their overnight roost.

“This is not really a good year,” Mr. Bell noted, “as the fields were harvested early so some are gone. There are some around Perivale Road and they go to roost in the wetlands, in a swamp area.” Mr. Bell went on to say that the cranes congregate in one area and also mentioned that they winter in Florida.

The club, a member of the charitable organization Ontario Nature, has been active since the early ’70s, but sandhill crane reports, outlining the highest count and the arrival and departure dates, have been tracked since 1959. That year shows a count of one crane while 2014 shows that over 1,000 of these birds visited the Island, while 2008 shows a count of 6,272. The purpose of the count is to help monitor the number of cranes as well as their distribution.

Islanders know about the bane of sandhill cranes as they eat sprouting seeds in the spring and thus damage newly planted corn. Mr. Bell mentioned that the birds feed on stubble fields in the fall and eat waste grains of corn, wheat and barley and noted that they are also omnivores and eat snails, snakes, berries, mice and frogs. “So they are both good and bad,” a club member remarked.

The club members are also hosts of the Mindemoya area and Gore Bay Christmas Bird Counts. People who want to participate in the count can keep track of birds at their feeders or, if one wants to drive or walk, can team up with an experienced birder. The bird tallies start at 8 am with Mindemoya’s event on December 19 and Gore Bay’s on December 20. For more information and to register, contact Chris Bell at 705-368-3410, or for Gore Bay either Mr. Bell or Terry Land at 705-282-2962. A Christmas potluck supper will be held at the church on December 19 for club members and bird counters. The organization has held a Christmas bird count since 1974.

The Manitoulin Nature Club meets on the last Friday of the month at 7:30 pm at Mindemoya’s Anglican Church on King Street West (Hwy 551) and welcomes new members. Membership fees are $15 per year. There are speakers at every meeting and October 30 will see Craig Maxwell presenting an illustrated talk on his recent trip to Australia.

Officers of the club are President John Smith, Vice-president Marcel Beneteau, Treasurer and Memberships, Nicole Smith and Secretary Vivenne Rattray-Eaton.