To conveniently experience up close the breathtaking spectacle of thousands of sandhill cranes gathering on the Wisconsin River’s sandbars and islands behind Aldo Leopold’s shack and farm, 20 minutes from the Inn at Wawanissee Point, don’t hesitate. For 2018 there are four ways to experience the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s Crane Congregation Tours in November and December at dusk as the cranes come in to roost, but access is limited. Registration begins Aug. 21 and 27, 2018, for members and nonmembers, respectively.
As fall migration begins thousands of sandhill cranes gather on the Wisconsin River along the Leopold-Pine Island Important Bird Area (IBA). This 16,000-acre IBA is adjacent the Aldo Leopold Center, and Leopold Shack and farm, nine miles northeast of Baraboo, Wis., on Levee Road, which is Rustic Road 49.
The river here is a premier viewing location in the region for this migration staging when cranes refuel for several weeks before flying south. From the Inn at Wawanissee Point bed and breakfast www.bestviewinwisconsin.com it’s a picturesque 20-minute drive through the Baraboo Hills' Lower Narrows.
Reservations are required for all. Tours sell out quickly.
Proceeds support conservation work at the Leopold-Pine Island Important Bird Area.
Nov. 15, 16, 30, Dec. 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, and 15, 2018, with Stan Temple
Nov. 27 & 28, Dec. 4 & 5, 2018, with Leopold staff, no reception
Begin at the Aldo Leopold Center. Travel in your vehicle a mile to a meeting place in the Leopold-Pine Island Important Bird Area just west of the Leopold Shack and farm. Ride in an open wagon to the new wind-sheltered viewing blind with ample space for modest-sized groups to observe. Once cranes have roosted just after sunset, return to your vehicles. Dress warmly. Bring binoculars and your camera.
Visit www.aldoleopold.org for additional details.
Read an article by Stan Temple about the sandhill cranes’ local history and why they are now thriving in south-central Wisconsin here.
Bird migration peaks the first two weeks of November. Though much of Leopold-Pine Island IBA land is privately owned, you’ll find excellent birding along 11 miles of Rustic Road 49 and some public land to explore.
Also hike and bird along the Foundation’s 2.5-mile upland interpretive trail network through 305 acres of oak savanna, wetlands and a dry prairie remnant overlooking the River, critical habitat for grassland birds and sandhill crane staging. The trail is open year-round for hiking, skiing and snowshoeing during the Center’s visitation hours: www.aldoleopold.org
The last day to enjoy a guided tour of the Leopold Shack is Oct. 28. Self-guided tours of the Shack and through the Center’s exhibits about Leopold, conservation and the Center, one of the greenest buildings in the world, continue and the trails remain open during winter visitation hours.
There’s no such thing as bad weather only improper clothing! See our tips here to enjoy birding and hiking the Baraboo Hills in November and early December.
Nov. 5–6: Taurids Meteor Shower Peaks, runs Sept. 7–Dec. 10. The thin crescent moon sets early in the evening leaving a dark sky for good viewing! The Taurids are well known for having many fireballs, exceptionally bright meteors. Snuggle on the Tepee room's deck or at the prairie terrace by the fire.
Nov. 15: Wollersheim Ruby Nouveau Release www.wollersheim.com
Nov. 17–18: Leonids Meteor shower peaks, runs Nov. 6–30. Snuggle on the Tepee room's deck or at the prairie terrace by the fire.
Nov. 17: Downtown Baraboo’s Christmas Light Parade 6:00 p.m.
Dec. 1: Sauk Prairie’s Holiday Light Parade, tree lighting and fireworks extravaganza 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 7–8: Baraboo’s The Very Merry Holiday Fair www.theverymerryholidayfair.com