It’s not unusual for local birdwatchers to drive along country roads in spring to observe the migrating flocks of sandhill cranes taking up temporary residence in farm fields. While this protected species affords some delight to the birdwatcher, for local farmers they can be very costly. Recently James Parsons sent The Tribune an aerial photo of one of his corn fields at Parview Farms in Cache Bay, and the damage caused. Parsons is a dairy and cash crop farmer, and this was his first year planting corn. He wrote, “We had bird bangers to repel them and would chase them daily, but the damage is crazy. All the investment is made up front so the losses will be extensive and insurance coverage is average over all our corn acres so the good-looking corn will probably get us to ‘good enough’ overall and will not generate a claim.”
In a follow up interview, Parsons explains further, “All of the corn across all our acres is like a cover – if one field does well and another is affected it may average to no payout… It’s not a complete disaster but it’s tough to swallow.” So, while many of us enjoy the view of these majestic birds and snap pictures, Parsons laughingly says, “I don’t mind them if they’d be somewhere else! …They pull out the shoots and eat the grain off the bottom, and [the corn seed] is nicely laid out every 6-inches, so they just walk along and it’s a nice laid out buffet.”
The photo submitted reflects one field, and Parsons says other farmers have sustained damage to their fields as well. He submitted the photo because he felt it may be of interest to people to understand just one of the trials local farmers contend with. “There are others upset about it too.” Sandhill cranes do go after other crops, like wheat, but Parsons says there is so much more volume in a wheatfield that it isn’t as problematic as a cornfield, a much larger plant that is loosely cropped.