Thursday, September 26, 2019
SANDHILL CRANE MIGRATION UNDERWAY
This week, I saw several signs that the fall migration of Sandhill Cranes to their winter locations is underway. Cranes, and geese, are unusal in their migrational behaviors because they travel by memory. They fly in daylight and follow landmarks. Juvenile cranes travel with their parents or with a flock of adults, learning and memorizing the routes.
In a farmer’s field that had been harvested, I saw a flock of about 40 Sandhill Cranes. I wish I’d had my wide-angle lens with me so I could have captured the whole lot.
It probably wouldn’t have mattered, however, because the group was very skittish. As soon as I pulled off the road, the cranes began moving en masse down a hill to another field that was less visible. Some couldn’t resist pecking and feeding along the way.
Another reason I think the migration is going on is that I’m seeing more crane families in the area. I saw the family with two colts earlier in the evening, and then I saw this one with three members.
This family had a good-looking young one too. I can see that its red crown was just beginning to come in. Its feathers also were lovely. What an engaging pose it gave me!
The parents were handsome too. As they fed so close together, their bodies almost appeared to merge. Their pair-bond was obvious.
As I moved on, I saw another pair in this field around the block from where I’d been photographing the threesome. These cranes showed no intent of dancing and were mostly focused on eating the dregs they’d found in the field. I assume they were building energy stores for their flight since cranes can cover an average of 200 miles on a single day. In flight, they also conserve energy by using thermals and updrafts of warm air to gain elevation and glide for great distances.
Imagine being wise enough to follow a route traveled for years from memory. I doubt any of us could make the trip to typical crane wintering spots in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico, or the Platte River in Kearney, Nebraska, without the help of a GPS!