Sandhill Crane Migration is Never Long Enough

Anyone who has ever witnessed the migration of the Sandhill cranes feels the magic of this incredible bird that has been migrating a similar route for thousands of years. To watch the cranes literally drop from the sky and then to see the lift off in the morning is incredibly beautiful and inspiring. Lucky for the western slope we have had a few thousand that like our gentle winters and have decided to stay for the past few years giving us a little more time to watch these incredible birds. The migrating cranes have several great places to spread their wings for the night this spring, Fruit Growers Reservoir, the Escalante State Wildlife Area and fields near Highline Lake State Park.  Thousands could be seen landing for the night and then taking off in the morning to continue their trip north.  Indeed a very special thing to witness. Fruitgrowers Reservoir water continues to rise thank goodness as the farmers will be happy to have the water on this drought predicted year.  A hundred cranes and a variety of other migrating birds including Snow Geese, American White Pelicans,  Long Billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Eared Grebe, Western Grebe,  Avocets and flocks and flocks of gulls were present this past Sunday. A bit windy but a gorgeous day indeed!


Franklins GullAmerican White Pelican

Cranes and GullsAvocets


Eared GrebeWestern GrebeGulls IMG_4263Quickly snapped this flock of Ibis out the window near the Escalante State Wildlife Area.

Yellow Headed BlackbirdsThere were at least 100 Yellow Headed Blackbirds hanging out in this big old Cotton Wood tree near the Escalante State Wildlife Area.

Cranes near Escalante State Wildlife Area on a Cold Windy Day

Several thousand cranes have passed through the Escalante State Wildlife Area the past three weeks most just stopping over for the night. On Saturday it was a cold and windy day and several hundred cranes could be found grazing in the fields.

Spring  CranesCranescranes IMG_3828A few seagulls in flight feeding over the lake. This one is a Ring-Billed Gull. Windy and cold but great birds always make the day!

Sandhill Cranes, Escalante State Wildlife Area

Sandhill Cranes have wintered near the Escalante State Wildlife Area, near Delta, for years however this year numerous numbers of cranes have been making this area their stopover during their migration trip. My first big numbers were on March 6 were hundreds of Sandhill’s dropped from the sky into the cornfields. This area is know as Escalante (Hamilton Tract) State Wildlife Area approximately 410 acres. Although this is public land public use is prohibited from March 15 to July 31 and viewing must be done from the roads.

Also had some Beautiful Tundra Swans!

Incredible view of the Gunnison River looking to the San Juans

Snow Geese coming in for a landing.



Gusty Winds Did Not Stop The Cranes

Thirty mile an hour winds did not keep over 700 Sandhill  Cranes from landing at Harts Basin, near Eckert Colorado on Wednesday. If you have never witnessed the cranes landing in large numbers it is a sight to behold, breathe taking actually.  So high in the sky the little black specs grow larger as they set their wings and slowly and gracefully drop from the sky. A magnificent sight indeed, August and I relished every second!



What a Difference a Day Makes….

Zero Sandhill Cranes at Harts Basin on Thursday, and yet on Friday the numbers soared in, several thousand and Saturday several hundred.  Not the best picture but very interesting as this was taken in Grand Junction of cranes that left Harts Basin, flying fairly low on their way to the next “overnight stop”

Several Thousand Sandhill Cranes are on Their Way North

The warm weather in early March has allowed several thousand cranes to pass through the Grand Junction area since the first of March. Around 1500 have “stopped over” at Harts Basin and several hundred have stopped over in the fields near Mack Mesa.  Next stop for many of these cranes is Ouray National Wildlife Refuge, near Vernal, Utah. There are many more to come, let’s hope they give us a chance to show our hospitality. 🙂  The weather turned uncooperative for migrating cranes and for that matter all migrating birds on March 18  but on this gorgeous Friday the weather is perfect…let’s hope!

Great book on migration: Living on the Wind, Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds by Scott Weidensaul.

If you love our Regal Eagle, this proud mom and pop are about to have eaglets in Decorah Iowa. You can view them here. Hatching will be any time!

The only excitement at Harts Basin was this beautiful mink and the incredible weather of course, not to many times have I been to Harts Basin when there was no wind! At this point, surprisingly very few birds compared to past years.

The Call of The Wild is Here! The Cranes are Flying!

An unseasonable warm day as I was out doing my horse chores I could hear “the call of the wild” a deep, rolling trumpet and rattling that can be heard for several miles, could it be? YES! The Sandhill cranes are migrating! There were approximately 70 cranes in the first flock around 11:00 AM and about 100 cranes in the second flock about noon flying much higher and definitely not as organized. Maybe not migration just yet but the local group moving in search of food…wonderful to hear them and see them again!

The Season of Cranes Flying North is Soon to Begin

The Sandhill Cranes typically start making their way from the south to the north in early March through April depending on the weather of course and making an overnight stop at Fruitgrowers Reservoir also known as Harts Basin, east of the town of Eckert Colorado. The Sandhill Cranes will stay the night, catch a bite to eat and rest the bodies that most likely just flew in from Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. Petroglyphs show the Sandhill Cranes have been flying this migration route for several thousand years.

The weather is going to need to warm up a bit for the cranes to enjoy a meal at Fruitgrowers Reservoir as it is still almost completely frozen over with just a few visitors.

So, we traveled on down the road and what a treat we had at Confluence Park, in Delta!

A male and female Common Merganser, actually there were several pairs of Mergansers.

An abundance of Canadian Geese


And a large flock (over 100) of Common Goldeneyes

Confluence Park is a fantastic 265 acre park within the city limits of Delta Colorado. There is a 60 acre lake that today was loaded with a variety of birds such as Canadian Geese, Common Mergansers, American Coot (also known in my family as the “cute Coot”) Snow Geese and a few domestic geese.
The 20 acre lake is also stocked with trout. So bring your pole and your
binoculars and enjoy this great park and the 5 miles of walking paths that
allow opportunities to view wildlife in natural habitats and the bird
sanctuary between the river and the lake. You can even bring your horse,
as there is a horse trail!
Other features include:
picnic sites, public restrooms, fire pits, bicycle trails, the lake allows non-motorized boating as well as handicap accessible.
Delta, you know how to build a park!