Sandhill Crane Festival - Bellevue, Michigan
Bellevue, Michigan - First in Eaton County
Every October Sandhill Cranes gather by the thousands in southwest Michigan. This is said to be the second largest gathering of these birds in the U.S. They come flying and soaring in to the wetlands in the Baker Sanctuary, the air filled with that distinctive, almost prehistoric cry. For nearly 20 years the Michigan Audubon Society and the Kiwanis Club have opened the Kiwanis Youth Area to the public for the Sandhill Crane Festival.
The area where the festival is held is rather wild and the road in and parking areas are not paved. The festival is spread around a central building where educational programs and materials are available. There are usually arts and crafts that are on theme with some very talented sculptors and other artists on hand. There is an interactive program featuring live raptors. These birds of prey are shown on the hillside by local experts. There are guided walks along the nature trails with expert naturalists, programs about birding and lots of nature exhibits.
This is a nature area and a wetland, choose practical footwear as it can be wet out here. There are sandhill cranes as well, and lots of them. You can find lots of viewing places prepared. About 4:30 PM The cranes begin to fly in. Huge flocks can be seen gliding down to the wetlands with peak activity after 6 PM. You want to bring a camera, binoculars and, perhaps, a light folding chair.
This event is usually held the second weekend in October. Crane illustration by Terry Mulvaney