Birding Trail

photo by William Curtindale

photo by William Curtindale

The Gather:

see thousands of SANDHILL CRANES

Last fall over 7483 Cranes arrived as of Nov 5, 2012 a record count.

Join the Audubon Society each weekend evening, two hours before sunset,

at the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary.

mid October thru mid November

This is a great opportunity to explore our own area.

Bring your family, friends and relatives and enjoy nature at its best.

The best place to view the cranes is early evening at the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary. Located 20 minutes west of Chelsea, MI. I94 to Race Rd. Exit go north, road dead ends at Seymour Rd, turn left (west) approximately 1 1/2 miles (Seymour Rd and Fairlane Dr.) Grass Lake . If you wish to see the cranes during the day, check out the website they have a weekly updated crane location map indicating feeding and roosting areas. Many of the shops in Chelsea have the maps, they are also available at the Waterloo Discovery Center. (Also listed on our driving tour page.)

The Sanctuary, has a raised viewing berm, that overlooks a glacier formed wetland area where the Sandhill Cranes Gather. This wetland staging area is where the Cranes stop to rest and replenish energy reserves before continuing on to eastern Florida on the snow birding trail. Prior to migration, each fall, Sandhill Cranes Gather in the Waterloo Recreation Area and Cranes have been making this gather annually for years.

  • The volunteer naturalist from the Jackson Audubon Society are on hand to talk about the Sandhill Cranes. They give freely of their time and your support for the Sanctuary would be greatly appreciated.
  • The area where the viewing is held is rather wild and the parking area is not paved. It is handicapped accessible.
  • This is a nature area and a wetland, choose practical footwear as it can be wet. Bug repellent or spray is advised.
  • There are Sandhill Cranes, and lots of them. Check the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary for updates on times and location for best migration viewing.
  • You want to bring binoculars, a camera, and, perhaps, a light folding chair.

Eddy Discovery Center Waterloo Recreation Area and Waterloo Recreation Area. For the latest updates online at

Jackson Audubon Society

Michigan Audubon Society

Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary. See the latest maps of Sandhill Cranes migrations, it is updated every week.

Educate yourself and encourage those around you to practice proper etiquette to make the migration season more enjoyable for wildlife, visitors and local residents.
• Do not stop on major roadways, driveways or any other private road or gated entry.
• Do not stop abruptly if you see a flock of birds from the road. The person traveling behind you may not be a crane watcher.
• When viewing migrating birds from a county roadside (gravel road), please pull as far off the road as possible and use your emergency flashers. Most crane watchers tend to drive these roads slowly, so be mindful of local traffic and farm machinery by pulling over when necessary
• Do not attempt to approach the birds. Use your vehicle as a “blind” and stay in your car or right next to it when setting up tripods for spotting scopes or cameras.
• Do not attempt to approach birds on their roosts. One alarm call from a bird can send the entire flock into a panicked flight, using up precious energy reserves and exposing the birds to hazards–not to mention ruining the viewing experience of other visitors.
• Most land in the Waterloo Recreation area is private property. DO NOT TRESPASS!
• Binoculars and spotting scopes are a real benefit for better viewing of all species of birds.


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