Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Monte Vista Crane Festival 2013

I don't remember exactly how I found about it, or what possessed me to make the four-hour drive to be part of it. But this past Saturday I found myself shivering in the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge watching and listening to thousands of Greater Sandhill Cranes fatten up for their migration north. All part of the 30th annual Monte Vista Crane Festival.

Greater Sandhill Cranes
I heard someone use the word "prehistoric" to describe the sound the cranes make.  It was sort of a cross between a turkey's gobble and a rusty hinge.  Not exactly songbirds.

Greater Sandhill Cranes
Awkward and halting on the ground, the birds were downright elegant in the air.

Greater Sandhill Crane
With such a large group, isolating a single crane in a photo wasn't easy.  Fortunately this fellow -- or possibly lady -- obliged.

Greater Sandhill Cranes
Ah, courtship rituals.  When do you not look ridiculous?  Even the Canada Goose was too embarrassed to watch.

Greater Sandhill Cranes
This group seemed to be doing a thorough job keeping an eye out for trouble.

Greater Sandhill Crane
The birds seek out wetlands in which to roost at night, standing on one leg in shallow water like a flamingo.

Canada Geese
Not cranes.   But the Canada Geese sure did think the cranes had found a good place to feed.

Greater Sandhill Cranes
And to drink, apparently.

Great Horned Owl
Also not a crane.  But this Great Horned Owl was in the same tree all day, not perturbed enough by the peeping humans to flush.  That's birder talk for "fly off."

Canada Geese and Greater Sandhill Cranes
I thought a Parks & Wildlife volunteer summed up the likely thoughts of the cranes on the ground when this ginormous flock of Canada Geese flew in nicely.  "Well, there goes the neighborhood."

I joined group tours three times on Saturday, and went out on my own Saturday afternoon and again Sunday morning.  I think I got my best shots when I was alone; but if I hadn't taken the group tours I wouldn't have known where the prime viewing locations were.

Being around real birders always makes me realize that I'm not one.  And that I'm OK with that.  Still, an enjoyable trip in the sense of something you don't often get the opportunity to do and see.  Maybe next year I'll head out to Nebraska to see the 500,000 Lesser Sandhill Cranes that return north through the Central Flyway instead for comparison!

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