Saturday afternoon we watched thousands of Sandhill Cranes just outside of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Zimmerman, north of the cities. The count is said to be a around 11,000 birds. We didn't count, but I don't doubt that number. The birds are feeding in harvested fields mostly north and west of the western boundry of the refuge. They should stay here until foul weather drives them out. We watched several thousand congregated in one field along County Road 3, movement in and out at a minimum. Beginning at about 3:30, cranes arrived and left in numbers. As it got closer to sunset, before 4:30, dozens of ragged formations of cranes flew in from the north. Most of these birds passed about half a mile east of us, crossing County Road 3 on their way to the evening roosting site. I hoped for the birds in our field to rise all at once when it came time to leave, a grand noisy exit. Didn't happen. The birds left in pairs and four and dozens until after sunset when the final 100 or so birds launched themselves. The cranes are a bird spectacle, well worth the drive up Highway 169 (to the ramped exit at County Road 9, then east on 9). Maps of fields where the birds have been seen in daytime are on-line at the refuge home page. Google Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. The photos were taken Saturday.