Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Zimmerman, Minn., just north of the Twin Cities, is one of the best places in the nation to watch migrating sandhill cranes.

Crane numbers are peaking just now at Sherburne, or have peaked in recent days, with sightings of about 11,000 of these graceful migrators.

Refuge visitors are urged to bring binoculars and watch cranes from their vehicles. Observers can pull off refuge roads. But if they get out of their vehicles, the birds will fly away. Birds from both the midcontinent and eastern populations of sandhills visit the refuge. The eastern population numbers some 100,000 birds. The midcontinent has more than 400,000.

Crane counts this fall have been as follows:

10/18: 5,659

10/23: 6,714

11/1: 10,026

11/8: 11,286.

Here's a map of the refuge.

Visitors can call the refuge headquarters before visiting to check on road conditions. The number is (763) 389-3323.

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