Monday, October 13, 2014

Birds of the Day: Sandhill Cranes at the Merced and San Luis National Wildlife Refuges

These beautiful birds have been spending the summer in the far north, but they have been arriving in the Great Valley to take up their winter residence at the Merced and San Luis National Wildlife Refuges a few miles south of Modesto (These pictures had their first appearance yesterday at Geotripper). The Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) would be at home on the prairies and wetlands of the Great Valley, but most of their habitat has been co-opted by agriculture.
The string of wildlife refuges up and down the valley provide a safe place for them to survive the winter (at least outside of the hunting areas of the "refuges"). Around 20,000 of them will be spending the season at the Merced unit.

We paid what we thought was an early visit to the refuges on Sunday, but found that the wetlands had just been flooded, and that many birds were already in residence, including several hundred of the cranes. Dozens more were arriving for the evening every minute. I shot a few videos of the graceful birds coming in to land for the night.
It was a beautiful day and a beautiful evening!

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