Showing posts sorted by relevance for query cranes. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query cranes. Sort by date Show all posts

November 30, 2013

On Not Paying Attention to Cranes

Don't use a 200mm lens to take photos of birds in the sky. But it was what I had when these sandhill cranes were overhead. As always, click to embiggen.
Thanksgiving Day, in the dining car of the Southwest Chief, somewhere near Lamar, Colorado. Off in the distance, hundreds of white birds settle into a field. A larger flock is a smear against the northern sky.

"Snow geese," I say to my dining companion (Amtrak uses "community seating). But at the table across the aisle, someone is saying that they are sandhill cranes. I don't think so — they don't fly like cranes, and I have never seen a flock of cranes that big, not even during the evening flight at Bosque del Apache. And the crane migration is pretty much done by now.

I have been writing this blog long enough that I have a bunch of "cranes" entries. In October 2005, standing on a wide, busy sidewalk at Colorado State University-Pueblo and watching a flock overhead, I felt my heart lift, yet I was saddened that no one else looked up. Should I have adopted a prophetic voice? "Behold the cranes, O people, and learn from them!"

A few years later, I was at our little fire station on a warm October day — some of us were working on an engine outdoors — when a migrating flock came over and everyone stopped to watch. I felt better about some of my fellow firefighters that day.

But then I recently heard some long-time locals speak of geese flying over on the same afternoon that I took the picture of cranes chasing a thermal. Just not paying attention? (Shades of the Dances with Wolves soundtrack error.)
Cranes are cumbersome flyers. They prefer to migrate during daylight hours, when the thermals created by the midday sun provide rising air currents which the cranes ride to gain elevation before gliding down to the next thermal. It is this thermal riding which many observers mistake for being lost of confused.
Dale Stahlercker and Martin Frentzel, Seasons of the Crane.

October 27, 2005

The clock of the seasons: sandhill cranes

On Wednesday the 19th I left my building, headed over to the Humanities office for a cup of coffee, and I heard them. A flock of 25-30 sandhill cranes was passing overhead, southbound, calling loudly.

None of the people passing by on the sidewalk looked up.

That night, under the gibbous Moon, more cranes passed over my house, and the next day there were more, maybe 60, circling to catch a thermal and then swinging south along the Wet Mountains.

Finally, on the 24th, a bright, cloudless fall day, I thought I heard more overhead when I was working outdoors, but I could not see them. Either M. was right and they were "ghost cranes," or they were behind the ridge.

The cranes' migration is like Big Ben donging the hour: early autumn is ending. All I can say is "Good-bye--see you in December at Bosque del Apache."

March 02, 2014

One Frosty Morning

The forces of fog advance toward the house.
Hoarfrost on Gambel oak.
Yesterday felt like a clash of the weather titans. When I woke up, the air was foggy and the temperature about 20° F. I put on a warm jacket and took Fisher on the road climbing into the national forest. In little more than two hundred yards we had climbed out of the fog, and at the top of the first low ridge, it felt twenty degrees warmer.

All day, a warmer westerly breeze fought the fog advancing up from the plains. (Sort of like the California coast if you substitute the High Plains for the Pacific Ocean.) In the end the fog was triumphant, giving us something that we see only once or twice a year — hoarfrost.

Today the sun broke out, illuminating the frost.

The driveway.
Mixed pines and juniper.
If I had taken the last photo an hour later, I would have heard the Clock of the Cranes — a flock of sandhill cranes overhead, the first of the season here that I have heard.

They were at Monte Vista NWR a few days ago, where they will be "Celebrating Spring in the Valley of the Cranes" next weekend, March 7th–9th.

March 24, 2013

Signs of Spring (2)

Sandhill cranes (Wikipedia)
While I was shoveling snow this morning — two flocks of sandhill cranes calling and shimmering in a clear blue sky.

And I don't know if this is springlike or not, but on the 17th a scorpion stung me in the hand — when I was in bed, which felt like a real violation.

The last time that happened was in 1986, I think, but I was in Cañon City, which is an outlier of the Chihuahuan Desert anyway.

It seems like I saw one in this foothills house one other time, but I can't remember when.

These little tan scorpions are not too bad — it's a hit like a wasp sting that is just a memory a couple of hours later. But M. says that venomous desert critters have it in for me.

October 09, 2008

Grus on the Loose

Three southbound flights of sandhill cranes went over us today, as many as 40 in a group, at medium altitude -- loose V's and W's of birds, pale grey flickers as their wings moved.

I can't help but think that their call must preserve the sound of some dinosaur or other.

The local newspaper's "Peaks of the Past" (reprinted news items from earlier times) offered this item from its equivalent 1908 issue: "A flock of wild geese, about 30 in number, passed over Westcliffe Thursday evening."

If a flock of geese was notable a century ago, were there any cranes at all? Fewer than 1,000 in 1940, says Wikipedia.

Some things have gotten better. Bodio might be seeing these birds soon.

March 01, 2005

The cranes are coming

National Geographic provides a live Web camera for watching the cranes' spring migration on the Platte River in Nebraska. Dawn and dusk (Central Time) are the best times to check it.

On the San Luis Valley flyway here in Colorado, the town of Monte Vista is preparing for annual Crane Festival. You can also read about last year's crane festival in this article by a first-time visitor.

October 01, 2018

These Texans Could Have Used Some Blog Stew

• What could be romantic than coming from Texas to Colorado and proposing marriage on a mountain peak? How about getting lost on the way down? That sure will test your compatibility!

• Do you wonder why you see more of some birds and fewer of others during the winter? Cornell University's annual Winter Bird Highlights is available for download. It is a PDF file (2.2 MB).

• Our favorite wildlife rehabilitators (now in their third decade at that site) were profiled recently on a Colorado Springs television news show. There is video this year's bunch of bear cubs too.

• I was outside yesterday and heard that sound southbound Sandhill cranes passing overhead. I have two memories associated with it — one good, one sad. The sad one was walking down a crowded sidewalk on the Colorado State University-Pueblo campus when a flock was passing overhead and not one person looked up, except me. Should I have turned into a sidewalk bird evangelist, exhorting the students to connect?

On the other hand, one October morning when I was new to the volunteer fire department, we were doing some engine maintenance outdoors on the concrete apron in front of the fire house. A flock passed over on the same flight path as yesterday's, and those stopped to watch. So I figured that they were all right.

April 17, 2013

Get Local. Get Plovered

Mountain plover being banded. (Colorado Parks & Wildlife)
Every Colorado town that wants to bring in tourists has a festival. Some have many — I do believer that Salida, for example, has a different festival every two weeks. There are Pioneer Days and sporting events, antique-car shows and massed plein air paint-ins, music festivals and fishing tournaments.

Some celebrate charismatic megafauna: bighorn sheep in Georgetown, sandhill cranes in Monte Vista, snow geese in Lamar.

Then there is Karval, in Lincoln County on the High Plains, linking its image to the mountain plover.  Most Coloradans could not find Karval on the map, and most could not recognize a mountain plover, I am sure.

But they are trying. Here is Colorado Parks & WIldlife's news release:
The town of Karval will host its Annual Mountain Plover Festival, April 26-28. Karval is a ranching hamlet, population "about 35," in southern Lincoln County.

Despite their name, mountain plovers do not breed in the mountains, instead, they prefer shortgrass prairies. The eastern plains of Colorado are the primary breeding grounds for the mountain plover and more than half of the world's population nests in the state. Mountain plovers, are a considered a species of "special concern" in Colorado because of declining numbers.

"The Mountain Plover Festival is a great way for people to experience the authentic small town atmosphere of a rural community while watching birds and learning about the culture and history of Colorado's eastern plains," said John Koshak, a watchable wildlife coordinator with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

"Guided tours provide an opportunity to observe plover nesting behavior and Karval residents pour on a big helping of hospitality to make certain the bird-watchers enjoy themselves," he said.

Plovers are commonly thought of as shorebirds, but the mountain plover is unique. The mountain plover breeds in the shortgrass prairies along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies from Montana to the Texas Panhandle. They winter from central California and southern Arizona southward into Mexico. Some of their more abundant nesting grounds lie in bare patches on the short grass prairie and farm fields surrounding Karval.

Mountain plovers are about 8 - 9 inches in height, have long legs, and are sandy-brown in coloration. Breeding adults have black forecrowns, white foreheads, and a thin, black eye line. In winter, adults and young birds appear with a plain face, making their dark eyes stand out. Mountain plovers have a white wing stripe and wing linings, and a black band near the tail tip.

A bus takes participants to sites on the prairie to points near the plovers' nesting sites where people are likely to see songbirds, burrowing owls, pronghorn, deer, eagles and other raptors.

Saturday and Sunday morning tours begin at 6 a.m. with breakfast served at 5:30 a.m., so birders can get out to the prairie just when the mountain plovers are becoming active.

Koshak said the birds make their nests in bare patches on the prairie, but they also like to nest around prairie dog towns, windmills, water tanks, and spots where ranchers feed their cattle on the range. The reason is simple: Those are the spots where they can find bugs to eat.

Mother Nature has endowed the birds with very protective instincts, though, so they will dance and squirt away from their nests trying to draw anything that comes near away from their eggs or hatchlings. Bird experts from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all of which help to sponsor the festival, will be on hand to explain the more scientific details about the birds, Koshak said.

The area around Karval is a haven for bird watchers with several sites included on the Colorado Birding Trail. In addition to seeing mountain plovers, bird watchers could see many other species, including burrowing owls, golden eagles, Wilson's snipe, lark buntings and bluebirds.

At the same time, the birders will gain more understanding of how landowners and biologists work together to study and preserve the nesting grounds for the elusive birds. Some of the ranchers they will meet are third-generation residents of Karval, the sons and daughters of homesteaders who are excellent stewards of Colorado's high plains grasslands.
 Some day I have to get up there for it.

February 02, 2012

Environmental Law Students Sue to Stop 'Over the River'

As the Fremont County commissioners began public hearings yesterday on the industrial-art project "Over the River," law students at the University of Denver's Environmental Law Clinic filed suit against it on behalf of the opposition group, Rags Over the Arkansas River, says the ABA Journal:
Christo plans to stretch fabric over the Arkansas River for two weeks in August 2014, an effort that critics who've dubbed themselves "ROAR," or Rags Over The Arkansas River, maintain is as risky as mineral development.

The installation would cover some 5.9 miles of the river and require the drilling of more than 9,000 bore holes, some 35 feet deep, in a critically sensitive wildlife area, according to a suit filed by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law(PDF).

The suit against the Bureau of Land Management maintains Christo's project "requires the use of equipment commonly used in mining and road building, such as hydraulic drill masts mounted on Cat 320-330 long-reach excavators, Cat M313D—M322D wheeled excavators, boom truck cranes, grouters, air compressors, water tanks, grout mixers, support trailers, steel rock anchors, and anchor frames."
So ROAR has roared. Their website links to more news stories.

The BLM, which approved the project, says that it was "thoroughly analyzed."

May 06, 2009

"Spring" Happened Last Week

Something happened last weekend when I was away. Spring turned into summer. Or early spring turned into late spring. Does "spring" exist in Colorado? Discuss.

Over the weekend, as I sat in short sleeves and sandals on the porch of my Florida cabin, M.'s voice on the cell phone reported rain and drizzle. I came home in the wee hours of Monday morning--daylight brought broken clouds and sun, (male) black-headed grosbeaks staking territories, apple trees starting to flower.

Meanwhile, my Colorado bird-knowledge betrayed me in Florida. It was good that I had brought a field guide. Two almost-tame sandhill cranes strolled through the campground--should they not have migrated? Nope, resident population.

Canoeing on the lake, I saw a big, dark bird with white head and tail swoop low over the water and then rise to the top of a longleaf pine--which, incidentally, lack the wonderful smell of ponderosa pine, despite their similar appearance. It flew like an eagle, but bald eagles should have migrated, right? Nope, the guidebook showed a year-round population.

And if I did not notice this on last year's trip through Virginia, I am now convinced that every mockingbird in the South includes "Car Alarm" in its repertoire of songs.

Now, back home, it is suddenly hot, and the voice of the lawnmower is heard in the land. The air smells of wild plum blossoms.

March 16, 2008

Blog Stew -- Lunch Special with Mashed Potatoes

Classic diners of Colorado. I have eaten in two of them.

¶ Testing continues at the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel treatment plant in anticipation of handing the backed-up polluted water.

¶ Chris Wemmer is still trying to squirrel-proof an owl nest box. The squirrels are winning. And he has some new bobcat photos as well.

¶ A white-water rafting guide critiques the recent Grand Canyon "flood," and compares it to the Salmon River's flow regime.

¶ While walking the dogs this morning, M. heard sandhill cranes overhead for the first time this spring, although thick cloud cover kept her from seeing them.