Sandhill Cranes

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Most anyone who has talked to me for more than five minutes knows that I grew up in Colorado.  Well, I just returned to Minnesota from a trip to my motherland and I thought I’d share a few photos.  In particular, I had the chance to visit my cousins in the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado, where Sandhill cranes are currently migrating through.  These three feet tall birds are really something to see. 

Below are a few photos that I took while marvelling at the birds.  You should be able to click on each one to see a larger version of the image.  Also, check out the Sounds of the sandhill crane, via Cornell’s lab, and imagine a whole field of these birds.

We found a few hundred of the cranes eating in a barley field just outside the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge.   The San Luis valley is close to the headwaters for the Rio Grande River and is an incredibly wide, flat, and dry area.  Farmers apparently can enroll to receive government compensation for leaving part of their harvest in the field to supply food for the birds.  Sadly, I could not get a picture that truly showed the hundreds of birds in just this one field, but the one below might give you a hint of it. 

cranes in field

As sunset approached, all of these birds – and thousands of others – took off to sleep overnight in the waters of the refuge.  Reportedly, they sleep standing up in water so predators have a harder time eating them.  We were fortunate enough to be standing in a place where the hundreds of birds in this field flew over us to land by a lake just behind us – all in a time span of less than half an hour.  We were told that the refuge reported having 10,000 cranes staying within the refuge itself and a total of 35,000 in the valley.

cranes en mass crane outlines cranes and clouds

This valley is formed on one side by the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.  Reportedly, this range, which translates to “Blood of Christ,” was named by a spanish explorer who first saw the mountains at sunrise or sunset.  While the color isn’t as true as the real thing, perhaps this last photo captures that just a bit.

cranes and mountains

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