Sandhill Cranes standing on an icy surface in the wetland at Nygren Wetland Preserve. Photo: Dave Watts

Sandhill cranes returned to northern Illinois in early February. The first one was seen at Nygren Wetland Preserve in Rockton, Ill. on Feb. 11, 2024. Yes, it’s early in the season, but not unheard of. Since then there have been scores if not hundreds of Sandhill Cranes, as well as other birds migrating through the area and finding refuge at this 721-acre wildlife habitat.

How do we know this? Fortunately, there is a Facebook group called Birders of Nygren Wetland Preserve. Many nature lovers and bird photographers visit Nygren Wetland regularly and post their photos in this group. NLI doesn’t have staff working at this preserve everyday so it’s nice to see what visitors to the preserve are seeing. It’s a public group and anyone may join. Find the Birders of Nygren Wetland Preserve group here. 

Thank you to Dave Watts for sharing his photos of Sandhill Cranes on his visit to the preserve in mid February seen here.

Sandhill Cranes, Nygren Wetland Preserve. Photo: Dave Watts

Randy Zimmerman was at Nygren Wetland Preserve during the afternoon of Feb. 22 when he captured a photo of the Sandhill Crane below. He said, “I happened to be in a secluded spot when it landed nearby, and for a while it seemed unaware of my presence.  When it let out a call, I was stunned to hear how loud it was at such close range.”

Sandhill Crane photo by Randy Zimmerman

How close have you been when hearing the call of a Sandhill Crane? Often, we hear the Sandhills calling while flying overhead or from a distance in the wetland.

You can visit Nygren Wetland Preserve daily from sunrise to sunset. The public entrance is at 3714 W. Rockton Rd., Rockton, Ill. 61072 where there is a parking lot and wildlife overlook. The start of the Dianne Nora Nature Trail goes east or west from the overlook. Find the trail map here.

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