Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Sandhill Cranes are Getting Restless

I wonder sometimes which they consider "home". Is it the Great Valley of California where they spend the winter, thriving on the grains and grasses that grow all year? Or is it their breeding grounds across the northern tier states or farther north in the Arctic (see their complicated range in the map below from Birds of North America). The answer, from their point of view, is pointless. It's just where life for them happens. One can't go to far with anthropomorphizing birds like I'm doing here.

Still, I sense a disturbance in the force as I've watched them the last few weeks. They know they are going to be leaving soon. I don't know what signals the moment to leave...the angle of the sun in the sky? The temperature? If it is temperature, they are a little bit confused right now. A week or two back it was as warm as April, but the end of February brought freezing temperatures. But in any case, they'll be heading north soon.
There are still hundreds of them in the area if you want a last look. The first picture was taken last weekend at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. The other pictures are from a month ago at the San Joaquin National River Wildlife Refuge, but a visit last week confirmed that they are still there.
These are such grand and graceful looking birds, and though it seems strange to put it this way, their call is almost like loud cat purring. And the sound carries long distances. I've heard them flying high overhead, but couldn't locate them in the sky. If you live in a place where they visit for part of the year, they are worth an afternoon to see and observe. But if you live in the Modesto area as many of my readers do, your time is running out. They are preparing to leave soon.

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