Sandhill Cranes Roosting

Between the Sangre de Cristo and the San Juan mountain ranges lies the beautiful San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. The valley is populated mostly by farms, ranches and small towns, all in sight of the majestic white peaks that surround the valley. It is also the location of a wildlife event that has occurred for over 2000 years (a petroglyph of a crane on a nearby rocky cliff face has been dated to be 2000 years old). Every spring and fall the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge (Monte Vista, Colorado) and surrounding farmlands are the stop-over locations for over 20,000 Sandhill Cranes as they arrive to refuel on their semi-annual migration. In the spring, they begin to arrive in late February from Bosque del Apache, New Mexico as they migrate to Idaho, Wyoming and Montana where they spend the summer nesting and breeding.

Sandhill Cranes Arriving

Sandhill Cranes Arriving

The sandhill crane is a long-legged, russet-gray bird that stands almost 4 feet tall, has a wing span of 5 feet and has a distinctive red crown.

Incoming Crane

Incoming Crane

Crane Cruising

Crane Cruising

Every evening at sunset the cranes depart their feeding grounds and converge by the thousands on the wetlands to roost for the night. Here in shallow water they are protected from predators. See and hear a video of thousands of sandhill cranes flying to their roosting locations:

With alpenglow on the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, sandhill cranes roost for the night in the wetlands of Monte Vista, Colorado:

Roosting for the Night

Roosting for the Night

As the sun rises in the morning and the first rays of the golden light shine through the mist from the wetlands, a surrealistic effect is created:

Double Balance

Double Balance

While predators and power lines are a constant threat to the cranes, the greatest danger of all is disappearing wetlands due to development, which in turn affects the cranes’ total population. Annual surveys monitor the population of the birds to help manage the balance between population, wetlands and field food sources to sustain them. Hopefully this will help preserve this spectacular event for generations to come.

For more information and images see my previous post on the sandhill cranes from my 2010 visit to Monte Vista.

Sandhill Cranes of Monte Vista

~ by richardseeley on April 5, 2011.

3 Responses to “Sandhill Cranes Roosting”

  1. J’aime beaucoup les merveilleuses photos “roosting for the night and double balance”

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  2. […] National Wildlife Refuge in Monte Vista, Colorado to photograph sandhill cranes. See my post on the sandhill cranes roosting.  As we drove along the dirt road in the refuge looking for cranes, Bob spotted a wetland location […]

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  3. […] Sandhill Cranes Roosting at Monte Vista Colorado […]

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