The Cranes have Come Home to Mate

This is Sandhill Crane season in the San Luis Valley — and especially in my town which, thanks to a Wildlife Refuge south of town attracts upwards of 20,000 Sandhill cranes every year. They gather to dance, mate, swoop, circle, evade predation and sing to each other in surprisingly euphonious voices.

I recently watched several small groups assemble high in the sky. They called out to each other, got together bit by bit, forming an enormous gyre of hundreds of cranes, swirling upward in the infinite blue. Mesmerizing.

Sandhill Cranes are among the oldest species on earth, enduring for 2.5 million years. They have fine-tuned survival. Among their predators are large raptors, and when a bald eagle or golden eagle circles above them — whether they are in the air or are calmly “grazing” on land — they group together. They have had plenty of time to learn that one crane is far more vulnerable to attack than is a group. Other predators — foxes, coyotes, raccoons, bears — mostly prey on juvenile birds. The adults are formidable.

They are dinosaurs.

My town celebrates this big deal of nature. There will be a BIG craft and nature show down at what anyone would call the fairgrounds. Special movies are shown at our theater. Bus tours go out a couple of times a day with forest service and park naturalists. People come to my town from all over the world to see this. A couple weeks ago, the special festival banners went up…

What’s funny about this photo (for 20 points)?

Living here, I get to see the cranes begin to arrive. It’s part of my world and the first sign of spring for everyone in the San Luis Valley. I’ve had the wondrous experience this year of langlaufing all alone on the golf course on a cold, sunny/foggy afternoon listening to the cranes calling to each other not far above me.

I don’t make special trips out to the refuge to see them until the clamor of humanity has left. This year I’m thinking that I’ll take Bella (the Jeep) out to the Sand Dunes to see them, maybe an adventure with my friends. πŸ™‚

This is a good video and explanation of their various sounds.

19 thoughts on “The Cranes have Come Home to Mate

  1. Beautiful Martha, we have so many Sand Hill Cranes here in Florida, they are very special. They roam the neighborhoods with their mates and sometimes offspring. If one should get lost they will cry out for it all day. Such sweet creatures.

    • They would probably naturalize well, but when it came time for them to go to Yellowstone Park for the summer, they might be confused. ❀

  2. In Europe, where there are far fewer wild refuges, they are beginning to try to salvage the few areas that aren’t towns or under cultivation. There was an article the other day in I think the New Yorker (but I could be wrong) that the DMZ — that area between N & S Vietnam has become a thriving location for two endangered European cranes. Maybe we need bigger and more DMZs!

    I love your Sandhill Cranes. Take many pictures !!

  3. Pearl’s ears went full mast when she heard the crane in the video – what a treat to see and hear these beautiful birds! πŸ˜€πŸ’–πŸŽΆ xxx

  4. Wow, that is certainly a sound to wake you up. (This morning I relied too heavily on YouTube videos and nearly overslept. Fortunately I managed to get the kid up and on his bus!). I can see why you call them dinosaurs. Man, they sure look like solid muscle. Also, I thought they looked like what would happen if you stripped a peacock of its gaudy feathers, put it on stilts and gave it the voice of a turkey. I have never imagined that before but now I don’t have to. Sand Hill Cranes for the win!

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