YARMOUTH COUNTY - Sonia Shand-Robitaille chuckles when she talks about the many birders using her driveway to gain access to some rare visitors to the area.
Two sandhill cranes have been seen regularly behind her house and other backyards in South Ohio for the last month. They were also spotted moving back and forth between South and North Ohio during the weeks before.
“People ask us excitedly if we know these cranes are behind our house,” said Shand-Robitaille.
She nods her head, smiling.
“Yes. Yes, we do.”
She describes them as “noisy birds” but their actions also sound a bit endearing.
“They move together, all the time,” she said. “We've even named them Hector and Joyce.”
A neighbour is feeding them cracked corn, a gesture that’s undoubtedly helping them to survive the sometimes-snowy conditions to pose for birders travelling province-wide to see them.
Alix d’Entremont, who (along with Murray Newell) represents Shelburne and Yarmouth counties for the Nova Scotia Bird Society, says the species has been sighted more frequently in the region in recent years.
“Nova Scotia being east of the sandhill crane's core breeding range, which encompasses most northern U.S. states and all of Canada except for the Atlantic provinces, they are uncommon here, but the frequency of reports has been climbing recently,” he said.
He adds that this species' range is expanding eastward, so the likelihood of it breeding in Nova Scotia is increasing. The first strong evidence of breeding in the province came in the form of a family group in Cumberland County during August 2015.
The cranes are omnivorous and eat plant materials, small vertebrates and invertebrates. Cultivated grains are a major food source when available.
“The two individuals in South Ohio have been seen foraging in fields and also eating cracked corn put out by the homeowners,” said d’Entremont.
Open prairies, wetlands and grasslands are the preferred habitat of sandhill cranes.
D’Entremont reminds those hoping to see the birds to respect homeowners’ privacy.
More about Sandhill Cranes