Wednesday, April 10, 2013

2013 Spring Trip - Day 3 - A Morning with the Sandhill Cranes

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Morning came early with the anticipation of what might lie ahead.  I was concerned about not hearing my iPhone alarm so I put it on vibrate and put it under my belt against my skin.  This served two purposes, 1) my body would keep it warm and the battery wouldn't die and 2) I would feel the vibration.  Sure enough it worked.

It was cold this morning and the sleeping bag was nice and toasty but once I put my hearing aid in and heard the faint sounds of cranes I was up.  I looked outside and didn't see any cranes, but of course it was still rather dark.  It's not uncommon for the cranes to move during the night and I was afraid they had. As the light on the river increased to my relief I saw the cranes and they were there in large numbers.  

It was clear this morning.  The storm had passed during the night and a sunrise, with the sun, was in store.  It’s hard to explain what the next few hours were like.  The cranes were to far away to make any decent pictures so I spend my time videoing.  I knew there was an excellent chance of getting video of one or more blast-offs.  It's impressive to see on video but mind blowing in person.  The river explodes in sight and sound and the sky fills with noisy cranes.  Take a few minutes and watch how the morning unfolded.

It was a show like I'd never seen before.  There's no need to travel to other countries to see amazing migrations of birds and animals, we have one right in the middle of our country.  Researchers believe from 600,000 to 800,000 cranes use this 80 mile stretch of the Platte River every spring.  That's 80% of the worlds population of Sandhill Cranes.

I had asked the person that took me to the blind to pick me up as early as possible since I was planning to drive to Farmington, New Mexico.  The Rowe Sanctuary is mighty protective of the cranes.  The activities of the sanctuary go out of their way to limit and minimize impact on the roosting cranes.  Their policy is to wait until all of the cranes have left the river before they pick up the people in the photographer blinds.  The cranes were so comfortable in the warm morning sun they didn't want leave.  It was after 10:00 am before enough left for them to come down and get me and there were still a dozen or so that were left.  Funny thing was before we got out of there they were coming back to the river undeterred by out activity.  As we were riding back to my car I learned that the two other groups in blinds downstream were out by 7:30.  The eagles down there spooked them and all of the cranes left.  I consider myself lucky.

I must say I was happy to get out of the blind.  I'd been in there for about 17 hrs, you do get a bucket, and I was anxious to get on the road.  After a little breakfast I was heading west toward New Mexico.  As I passed south of Denver I ran into a snow storm and decided to stop and spend the night in Walsenburg, CO.  

It was another memorable few days with the Sandhill Cranes.  It's now time to explore the wonders of New Mexico and Utah.  I will be returning to the Platte on the way home next Saturday so I see another crane encounter in my future.


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