|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
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.
They will also grab a chunk of grass or a twig, toss it high, jump and catch it in mid-air.
It snowed one night. The cranes must have had very cold feet.
Tip Toe in the Snow
The wingspan of a sandhill crane can be 7 feet from tip to tip.
Spotting the Landing Zone
Heading My Way