SANDHILL CRANES

In early October I hear the cranes high overhead as they head down to their wintering grounds in the Central Valley. Looking up into the sky, I usually can’t find them as my hearing aids scramble the direction of the sound and they’re often above the clouds anyway.  But their calling indicates their presence and as they’re one of the few birds my failing hearing can still detect, it is a joy.  April brings a similar event as they start to head back to their breeding grounds in the north.

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Driving the farm roads in the upper Sacramento Valley is the way I find cranes in the winter. They frequent the farm fields, tilled until next season’s plantings; the several waterfowl refuges; and open pasturelands.

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Sadly, their core habitat surrounding Lodi (yes…the Lodi of “stuck in Lodi again”) is rapidly being converted to wine grapes, good for us cabernet enthusiasts but very bad for the cranes.

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Yesterday was a great day for crane photography as I found a flock of about 30 near the road. They were obscured by the roadside vegetation from vehicles but I was able to park on the apron, quietly setting my tripod up in the bed of my truck where I could see over the fencerow.

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I then spent 2 ½ wonderful hours watching them feeding, flying in and out, and interacting.  I took over 1200 images, erased most, but here are some of the best.

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