Sandhill Cranes are Arriving!

Copyright © 2013 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

I’ve been looking forward to this week-end for a month. It’s that time of year when the Sandhill Cranes return for the Winter Migration. A friend of mine (Judi) has been posting Sandhill Cranes from Merced Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Flyway this past week which really excited me. She reported that they were less skittish, and were a  bit closer to the “Auto-Route” we take to see them. I’ve been wanting a really good close up of a Sandhill Crane for years. This report gave me hope that this might be my year.

Yesterday, my friend Rainey and I went over to the Refuge and had a wonderful time. We called Judi and met her at the Refuge. We were not disappointed. The weather was California perfect; sunny, warm, and with a slight breeze. The Cranes were closer than I’d ever seen them.

Sandhill CraneThey are so beautiful with their Red Heart shaped face, and wonderful plumage.

We drove the “Auto-route” several times in the late morning and early afternoon.

We even saw a family group with a juvenile. It’s the little one in front without a red face.

Sandhill CranesThen we went to lunch at an” old-time” family drive-in Burger Joint called H&M in Merced. They say they’re famous for their seasoned fries which are delicious, but their Guacamole Burger is just as good. The Avocado Burger is my next favorite burger on the menu. After a diet busting lunch we went back to the Refuge for another drive around before heading home.

On this last trip around the refuge we saw groups of Sandhill Cranes flying in for the night.

Sandhill CranesToday,  Rainey, Dali, and I went up north to Lodi to the Sandhill Crane Festival and found the weather completely different from yesterday.   Overnight our warm Indian Summer changed to Fall; it was cold, and so windy the top soil was blowing so thick visibility was only 10-20 feet! We didn’t see too many Cranes and those we saw were pretty far back in the fields near the Levees or in the taller rows of mowed corn for protection.

Sandhill CranesWe did see other birds of note: a Belted Kingfisher ( still my nemesis I’m afraid), Dali got the Kingfisher shot today. We also saw Lesser Sandpipers, and a Snipe shown below so, the day wasn’t a total loss.

SnipeIt was a great birding week-end with friends. I’m looking forward to going back to both Wildlife Refuges this winter.

Nikon D300s| Nikkor AF-S 80-400mm G



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