“Sense the blessings of the earth in the perfect arc of a ripe tangerine, the taste of warm, fresh bread, the circling flight of birds, the lavender color of the sky shining in a late afternoon rain puddle, the million times we pass other beings in our cars and shops and out among the trees without crashing, conflict or harm.” – Jack Kornfield
Sandhill Cranes Galore
The first sandhill cranes I ever saw were alongside the Sawtooth Scenic Highway somewhere north of Ketchum, Idaho in 1983. I was taking a drive with a forest ranger for a story I was writing for the Twin Falls Times-News. There were about a dozen of the large birds, but I wouldn’t have known what they were if the forest ranger hadn’t identified them.
The next time I saw sandhill cranes was more than 10 years later when I was doing a story on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. By this time I had become an avid birder, and I could identify birds on my own – well at least with my Roger Tory Peterson birding field guide, There were only four sandhill cranesthis time, two pairs. The sighting, however, was special because the two pairs were doing their courting dance.
I saw sandhill cranes pretty regularly after that, both in Utah and Texas. The one other time that stands out was when a small flock of sandhill cranes did a flyby over by head at the Morgan (Utah) Sewage Ponds.
But it wasn’t until this past week, when this non-wandering wanderer took a road trip to Whitewater Draw southeast of Tucson, that I saw thousands of sandhill cranes at one time. Between 20,000 to 30,000 sandhill cranes make this 600-acre wetlands their winter home.
I visited the site in the early afternoon, when the cranes stretched out for probably a quarter mile on opposite shorelines. And they were still coming in when I left about 4 p.m., after taking a loop hike through the wetlands.
In addition to sandhill cranes, I saw coots, ruddy ducks, lesser scaup, common yellowthroats, robins, northern shovelers and cinnamon teal. What a great day!
Bean Pat: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park http://tinyurl.com/p5mupnk And here’s a good place to visit to see winter wildflowers.