I've been working with the students at Maxville Alternative School on a birdwatching project - collecting bird data for eBird. They've braved the cold to count Tundra Swans in Alma, the Bald Eagles at Reads Landing and the Black-capped Chickadees at the deer carcass hanging from the antique swings in their school yard.
Last week, Andy Schroeder, a student at Maxville, reported Sandhill Cranes - the first for our neighborhood.
At first I thought it might be too early for cranes. Maybe he'd confused a crane for a Great Blue Heron. So I talked to him about it. He said he was in a boat on the Mississippi River when he spotted three of them in a marsh. Hmmm.
Then last night I was driving at dusk on Interstate 90 by La Crosse and I spotted Sandhill Cranes in the corn fields - and a skein of them flying overhead.
No doubt about it - the Sandhills are back!