Monday, November 5, 2012

Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary

Every Tuesday now I try to take a "me" day. This is a day when I go and do whatever I want--go for a hike, a drive, see a movie, sit in a cafe, stay home even. Kind of like my weekend, this is a solo endeavor, a chance to get some alone time. No meal planning, no house work, no running a business. Just me, free.

A few weeks ago I decided to visit the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary. Located near the Waterloo Recreation Area and operated by the Jackson Audubon Society, it's in a pretty rural, undeveloped area north of Jackson, Michigan. It is a staging area for the greater sandhill crane, who amass there by the thousands before they fly south for the winter. I had been there only one time before, and had gotten there late, missing the bulk of the fly-in. This time I arrived around 3pm, planning to hike the short trail and then find a bench and watch the cranes come in.

Phyllis Haehnle Sanctuary from the observation area. Restored prairie in the foreground, Mud Lake Marsh in the background.

When I arrived no one else was there yet. I wandered over to the kiosk to read about the preserve and pick up some pamphlets.  According to the literature the sanctuary is over 900 acres and includes Beech and Oak forests, a hardwood swamp, a fen, and two restored prairie areas. Thanks to the varied habitat it is a great place to see lots of different kinds of birds. Over 200 bird species have been recorded there, as well as over 35 species of butterflies.

I saw a flock of cedar waxwings in the trees around the observation area but they were up at the tippy tops and impossible to photograph. I noticed movement closer to eye-level and found a sparrow with a yummy morsel in the lower branches of the trees.

White-crowned sparrow, female or immature.

When I saw this bird and the one that follows I thought they were field sparrows. Goes to show how well I do field ID's!

The bird left the tree and I followed it to some better light in the grass at the edge of the marsh.

Stretching out for a nibble.

After getting home and looking at the images I could see this was not a field sparrow but a white-crowned sparrow. The give-away for the ID were the white wing bars, plus the pale pink bill and partial eye ring. I don't know if this is a female or immature, but if I had to guess I'd say a female.

There were no cranes to be heard yet so I set foot on the trail that leads into the woods to see who else might be about, but that is for next time.


  1. I've been here, Marie! I went in 2009. We were up in Michigan for my son's hockey tourney. After the game, we all headed over, and what a sight and sound. It was so beautiful watching and listening to them fly in. I want to go back!

    1. Oh Kelly, I'm so glad you were able to experience this. I am sure it is nothing like the Platte River in Nebraska, but it is still an incredible sight. I might go back myself this weekend. It's early enough that I think the cranes are still around, although it has been cold this past week.

  2. Great shots of a winter bird I always look forward to seeing!