Sandhill Cranes in Monte Vista, Colorado

We arrived before sunrise. It was surprisingly cold. The snow-capped Sangre de Cristo mountains loomed in the background as we waited for the sun to rise. We had arrived in Monte Vista, Colorado to witness the grand stopover event of the Sandhill Cranes as they migrate from Bosque del Apache, New Mexico to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. They had come in to roost the night before into a wetland away from most predators. We were ready. The sun rose and its light suffused into the mist rising from the water. The effect lasted only seconds giving the effect of an outdoor sauna.

Morning Breath

Morning Breath

A sandhill crane awakes to a very cold morning sunrise and can see it’s own breath in Monte Vista, Colorado.

Late in February, the sandhill cranes, begin their annual trek from south to north, stopping off at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge  to load up on fuel for the remainder of their trip. It has been determined that they have been doing this stop over for 2000 years based on petroglyphs in the nearby mountains. This year we watched as thousands of cranes would swoop in and roost for the night in a wetlands at the refuge.We were there in late March and there will still thousands of cranes. The peak number is about 25,000 cranes. By the end of the next week the population had dropped significantly as they departed for the north. It was a heavy snow winter  in southern Colorado and as can be seen the Sangre deCristo mountains are still deep in snow.

Follow the Leader

Follow the Leader

Four sandhill cranes follow the leading crane to a landing spot in the fields of Monte Vista with the Sangre deCristo mountains in the background.

Cranes pair for life (until they get a divorce). They strengthen their bond by performing a dancing ritual. One crane jumps high while the other crouches low, then they alternate.

Jump Shot

Jump Shot

They will also grab a chunk of grass or a twig, toss it high, jump and catch it in mid-air.

Jump Catch

Jump Catch

It snowed one night. The cranes must have had very cold feet.

Tip Toe in the Snow

Tip Toe in the Snow

Frozen Footsteps

Frozen Footsteps

The wingspan of a sandhill crane can be 7 feet from tip to tip.

Joyful Wings

Joyful Wings

Spotting the Landing Zone

Spotting the Landing Zone

Heading My Way

Heading My Way

Craning Necks

Craning Necks

~ by richardseeley on April 20, 2010.

2 Responses to “Sandhill Cranes in Monte Vista, Colorado”

  1. Nice work and excellent captions!

    Like

  2. […] Sandhill Cranes of Monte Vista […]

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