23 March 2016

Stardate 2015.225

I'll Find Myself Some Wings

Snowcatcher and I went craning this past weekend at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge in the San Luis Valley of south central Colorado. The Rocky Mountain population of Greater Sandhill Cranes uses the San Luis Valley as a "pit stop" during migration between winter and summer ranges.

A few physically smaller Lesser Sandhill Cranes also may be found, but the Lesser Sandhill primarily migrates east of the Rocky Mountains via the Nebraska flyway. The San Luis Valley is surrounded by mountains on three sides with the Sangre de Cristo Range towering to the east, the wild and woolly San Juan Mountains to the West and the sky-piercing Sawatch Range to the north.

Sangre de Cristo Mountains

San Juan Mountains

Sawatch Mountains

Not too hindered by the ice.

As the day warmed, the cranes styled a bit.

The San Luis Valley is a layover site rich in food and wetlands. During the spring, approximately 20,000 cranes use the region for rest and foraging prior to heading northwest through the mountains to the Greater Yellowstone breeding grounds. In the fall, the birds stop in route to New Mexico's Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge where they'll hunker down for winter.

The towering high-point of the Blanca Massive (background) is 14,345-foot Blanca Peak, Colorado's 4th highest peak.

Elegant, yet gangly describes the spring courtship dances that take place in the San Luis Valley. Moreover, the birds mate for life. As for size, an adult Sandhill is approximately 4 feet in height, with a lift-generating 6-foot wingspan. They have a unique call that is easy to recognize but almost impossible to imitate.

Cranes feast in farmer's fields, then overnight in local wetlands.

The Canada Goose also is a migrating visitor in Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.

Cranes feed beneath 14,294-foot Crestone Peak (top center-right) and 14,197-foot Crestone Needle (top right).

A stone's throw from New Mexico, the region also is rich in American and Mexican history dating back into the late 1700s.

Thanks for reading!


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