Friday, February 7, 2020

Preparing for a Long Journey...The Sandhill Cranes of the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge

These last few days have been truly beautiful in the Great Valley of California. A couple of weak low pressure systems blew out the dust and pollution and we've had a series of gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. I had a few minutes after a lab today, and decided to see what was going on at the viewing platform at the north edge of the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge. One never really knows what to expect...last week there were around 10,000 Snow and Ross's Geese gathered in a single gigantic flock near the road. It much different tonight. The Snow Geese were off in another part of the refuge, and the fields were being patrolled by hundreds and hundreds of Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis).
The cranes have been here since September, wintering in the mild climate of the valley. But the season is starting to feel more and more like spring, and the birds are getting restless. Within a few short weeks they'll be gone, headed north towards the Arctic to breed and fatten up during the summer months.
Sandhill Cranes are one of the most dramatic species to grace our local environment. They are large birds, standing almost four feet tall, and they have a unique style of dancing when they are flocking together. I'm going to miss their purring call when they're gone, but it's nice to know we can look forward to their return once the weather starts to turn cold again.

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