Just this past week I had the good fortune to spend time at Barren River State Resort Park in Lucas, Kentucky thanks to my friends at Kentucky Parks. When I received the invitation to attend the Sandhill Crane Tour – sort of a sneak peek at what folks who attend the Nature Watch Weekends Barren River State Resort Park in January will enjoy, I jumped at the chance to have an opportunity to view and photograph the sandhill cranes that winter at Barren River Lake and use it as a stopover point during migration.
Each year thousands of sandhill cranes make Barren River Lake a stop as they congregate in huge numbers to migrate. The lake’s exposed mud flats in winter provide the birds with a perfect spot to rest and socialize as they settle in for the night. Ample farmlands and wet meadows offer plenty of food.
Sandhill cranes are tall, gray birds reaching heights up to 4 feet, weighing up to 12 pounds with a wingspan of 6-7 feet. They have two distinct features about them: one is their appearance of a crimson, red-crowned forehead, white cheeks, and fluffy rear end or “bustle” ; the other is when in flight, the long dark legs trail behind and the long neck is kept straight out, rather than tucked in towards the body.
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable views of the sandhill cranes is that of the great leaping, jumping and “dancing” behaviors that they display. Although the dancing is most common in the breeding season, the cranes dance all year long. The dancing involves a seemingly choreographed series of wing flapping, bowing, jumps (up to 8 feet!) what at times appears to just be bunch of big birds playing around and having fun. Occasionally the cranes will throw a stick or some plants into the air.
While the trip to Barren River Lake could be considered a bit long for some, it’s well worth the drive. For those in southern Illinois it’s no problem at all to be there by lunch time. It is truly a bit awe inspiring to see the masses of sandhills on roosting on the mud flats, to hear the haunting rattle and koo calls that they make, and to see the fields and pastures around Barren River Lake covered in these both stately and comical birds – much the way we here in Illinois have grown accustomed to seeing fields full of snow geese.
While the tours fill up very quickly, Jaimie Avery, the excellent naturalist and park program supervisor at Barren River State Resort Park is fountain of information regarding the sandhills, and is happy to share maps, suggestions, and information so that a self-guided tour can also give visitors a great experience. If your are looking for great winter getaway - watching the exuberant and elegant sandhill cranes at Barren River Lake will surely leaving you jumping for joy just like the cranes!
Barren River is offering tours during two weekends for guests to learn more about these intriguing birds with a unique sound. Tours will be held Jan. 23-24 and 30-31, 2015.
New this year is a Friday afternoon sunset tour.
Each weekend also includes an educational session conducted by a wildlife biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources on Friday evening at 7 p.m. Registration is $40 per adult and $20 per child 8-12 years old (must be at least 8 years old to go on van tours). The fee includes all educational sessions, a box lunch, a T-shirt and a choice of a Friday sunset, Saturday sunrise or Saturday sunset tour.
The park is surrounded by rolling, tree-covered hills, on the edge of a beautiful 10,000-acre lake. There are 51 lodge rooms, 22 cottages and 99 campsites at the park. Enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of an upscale fish camp in the Driftwood Restaurant. If you are looking for something to do during your visit, you can play on the 18-hole golf course, hike along a nature trail, visit the marina to rent a boat, check out a fishing pole or sports equipment, browse the gift shop or just enjoy a peaceful seat overlooking the lake.
The resort is 44 miles southeast of Bowling Green. Take Interstate 65 to the Cumberland Parkway east, to U.S. 31E south.
As I fully expected, gun season had my social media news feeds filled with lots of deer photos and discussions. Lots of successes, lots of failures, and most of all lots of discussion about the state of the herd in Illinois.
I don’t gun hunt, but we all know I have a hard time staying out of the woods on any given day, and when the deer are stirring like they have been the last week or so it’s next to impossible.
So, have a look at what I’ve been seeing for the last week - Just so you know, these are all public land deer. None are from outfitter or hunt club managed properties. Just what’s roaming around the neighborhood and agreeing to pose for a few moments.
Draw your own conclusions about the state of things here in SW Illinois - or better yet, just enjoy the images. I know I sure enjoyed taking them!
While usually I need my 400mm prime lens, the deer have been such a romantic frenzy that on more than one occasion that turned out to be too long of a focal length to use. I just couldn’t get the whole deer in the image frame, consequently, I had to fumble around a bit in my hiding spots and swap over to zoom in order to get all over the deer in the frame. The ones below were some that just got close enough they wouldn’t fit!
Finally I wised up and swapped out the lenses so we can have better look at the WHOLE deer.
This little guy - goodness he was so spindly to be carting around that headgear!
What about the does you ask? Well frankly, to me they are all looking just a little worn around the edges, and crabby. They have that look that screams they are sick of speed dating and all the riff raff hounding them. Kind of like a single gal after a long evening with bar full of losers. Nothing to seriously consider in the mate department and tired of defending her honor.
and this one - well - she just pretty much sums it all up doesn’t she?
As we are entering some of the best days for waterfowling, a disturbing photo crossed my social media feeds last week. A fellow waterfowler had encountered a very strange experience with his Hevi-Shot shell while in the blind. Thankfully he was an experienced shooter, and immediately put the gun down after the first odd sounding shot, and discovery of something strange. Soon Hevi-Shot was receiving a report of the malfunctioning shell. Of course Hevi - Shot responded immediately, and launched an investigation, which resulted in the issuing of the following statement.
I strongly encourage everyone who uses Hevi-Shot to read it through, and absolutely check the numbers on your shell boxes.
We discovered last night that one of my hunting partners unfortunately has an entire case of the affected shells. There exists the possibility that a terrible tragedy could have occurred. I for one applaud Hevi-Shot’s swift and thorough response to the problem.
URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT FROM HEVI-Shot
At temperatures below freezing, our 12-gauge, 3-inch HEVI-Metal® and HEVI-Steel® shotshell wads may crack on ignition. This may cause a “squib load”, with an off sound and reduced power.
While this squib load will not damage your gun in any way, it can result in a wad stuck in your barrel, because the force of some of these shells may not be strong enough to push the wad all the way out of the muzzle.
The danger comes if you fire again without clearing a stuck wad from your barrel. This can cause barrel damage or injury. If you hear an off sound with no power, please stop shooting! First, unload your gun – and then check your barrel for obstructions before you fire again!
Please do not shoot these shotshells. Instead, please contact us for replacement shells. We have fixed this problem in current production.
After we were contacted about squib loads, we began an intensive investigation that led to an understanding of the problem by the evening of 19 November. We want to get this notice out to our customers immediately. Please share it with your hunting friends.
The wads we bought between July and mid-November used a low-density polyethylene plastic. We switched yesterday to a linear low density polyethylene, which performs safely in all weather, including very cold weather. To understand the difference, please go to:
Only 12-gauge, 3-inch HEVI-Steel or HEVI-Metal® shotshells with these lot numbers may have the problem:
201576 – 201584 301571 – 301609 401335 – 401345 500001 - 500016
201600 – 201637 301643 – 301659 401381 - 401422
201640 – 201659 301672 – 301689 401437 - 401463
201665 – 201671 301698 – 301701 401466 - 401486
201677 – 201680 301713 – 301722 401489 - 401504
201683 – 201699 301725 – 301726 401507 - 401519
201702 – 201722 301730 - 301734
201732 – 201736
The lot number is stamped on the inside top flap of your box of shotshells.