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Return of the Sandhill Crane Celebration

Information about the 2020 Return of the Sandhill Crane Celebration.

Return of the Sandhill Crane Celebration

Welcome to the Virtual Return of the Sandhill Crane Celebration

Welcome From the Visitor Center

The team at the Visitor Center want to thank you for joining us for our virtual Return of the Sandhill Crane Celebration. We know that so many people love to come out and watch the wildlife at the Center. This time of the year is especially great for viewing the variety of migratory birds that stop to rest in the agricultural fields and are especially attracted to the sights and sounds of the Sandhill Cranes.

Unfortunately, we are closed due to Covid-19 mandates but we still wanted to bring updates to what is going on at the Center during the closure. We will periodically add more photos and video in the days ahead.
Facts about Sandhill Cranes


What is happening at the Visitor Center?

November 14 - 20, 2020


Cranes have slowly been coming in and at last count there were at least 50 feeding in the agricultural field. Canada geese and Crows have joined the party and the local pack of young Coyotes have also showed up in a futile attempt to hunt the birds.



Cranes along the bosque - November 2020
photographed by Jonathan Donovan, Open Space Visitor Service 

Cranes Cranes along the bosque


 The Greater Sandhill Cranes of Modoc County, California

Presented by Lauris Phillip

For 5 years she has volunteered at the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge, assisting a long-term banding program aimed at monitoring and protecting this threatened population of cranes.

Her presentation will follow the cranes through the seasons, from when they arrive at the Modoc Refuge in February to when they leave in September. They court, mate, nest, hatch and grow up there. And they get leg-banded there. She will share about the banding program and crane family-life through many beautiful and interesting photos. Lauris’ talk has something for all ages.


Crane Dance Duet on the Fly

Presented by Maple Street Dance Space
Sound by Crane songs recorded on site, at the Open Space Center 2017, and mixed and mastered by Lauren Valerie Coons.

Based on Maple Street Dance Space's annual "Crane Dance", originally created for the Return of the Cranes Festival in 2017, and performed yearly with variations since then, collaborators Lauren V. Coons and Romy Keegan, of Maple Street Dance Space present a short playful version for this year's virtual festival: "Crane Dance Duet On the Fly". The mural in the background is located in Los Tomasas Park, in the Near North Valley.


Crane Dance Performance for Flock — November 2019
by Wendy Brown, Wildlife Biologist, 2019

When we hear the call of the crane, we hear no mere bird.  We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. ~ Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold said that, in his classic book of conservation essays — A Sand County Almanac. What Leopold was describing was the primeval call from the ancient history of the Sandhill crane.  These may well be the oldest living form of bird on earth. Bones of the ancestors of the birds you see around you date back several million years.  By contrast, we humans have only been around for perhaps 200 thousand years.  Read More

 


Pacific Northwest Crane Mask Pacific Northwest Crane mask

Sandhill Crane, by Scott Jensen

The Tlingit word for these large and impressive bird is dóol. Sandhill cranes have a 6 ft.+ wing span and are three to four feet high.They migrate from the southern United States to Canada, Alaska and Siberia via two different flyways. One of these groups of Sandhill cranes uses the pacific flyway that takes most of them to Alaska on their way to nest in Bristol Bay, the Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak Island and Cook Inlet. A small number of this group of cranes nests in the muskegs of Southeast Alaska. They can also be seen at the Copper River Delta, Yakutat, Glacier Bay and the Stikine river resting on the long migration. During the mating season these cranes preform a spectacular dance together. -Scott Jensen

 

 


Learn to make your own Origami Crane

Presented by Tavin's Origami Instructions

Origami, the art of paper-folding. Its name derives from Japanese words ori (“folding”) and kami (“paper”). Traditional origami consists of folding a single sheet of square paper (often with a colored side) into a sculpture without cutting, gluing, taping, or even marking it.

How to make a Origami Crane

Download the the how-to diagram here.



 

Crane Dance Performance for Flock — November 2019
by Wendy Brown, Wildlife Biologist, 2019

“When we hear the call of the crane, we hear no mere bird.  We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution.”

Aldo Leopold said that, in his classic book of conservation essays — A Sand County Almanac. What Leopold was describing was the primeval call from the ancient history of the sandhill crane.  These may well be the oldest living form of bird on earth. Bones of the ancestors of the birds you see around you date back several million years.  By contrast, we humans have only been around for perhaps 200 thousand years. 

I, like Leopold, and like so many of you, thrill to the sound of the sandhill cranes arriving in the fall. My name is Wendy — I’m a biologist who has spent most of her adult life studying cranes in one way or another — and I never tire of learning about them.  I also sometimes dance with the wonderful women you see here. But today, I simply want to share a little bit of what I know about cranes, and what these dancers are expressing.

The cranes you see around you have arrived from their breeding grounds in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Pairs, who typically mate for life, spend their summers in the green, wet meadows of Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Utah. Pairs nest there, raising one or two youngsters if they are skilled and lucky. These young cranes accompany the adults some 800 miles in migration to spend the winter as a family in the Southwest.

Why here?  The Pueblo people of New Mexico have a story to explain this: Once, long ago, a flock of cranes lived up in the clouds. They were quite happy, drinking water from the clouds, and even building their nests there. But one day they decided to visit earth, and drink and eat from the rivers. At the first river, they ate all the fish and frogs and drank all the water till it was gone. They visited a second and third river, and the same thing happened. Finally they went to the Rio Grande, but here they were unable to eat and drink all that was there.  “This is a mighty and great river!” said their leader. “We shall make our home here and prosper!” *

The truth portrayed in this folktale is that the Rio Grande Valley indeed provides what these cranes need: food, and shelter, and a safe place to sleep at night: a place where they stand together in groups in the shallow water (often on one leg!).

Humans are quite fascinated with cranes — there are 15 species of cranes around the world, and each species is depicted, often revered, in the cultures endemic to each country. Art, music, literature from folktales to novels — and yes — dance! — every culture embraces cranes.  Perhaps it is because cranes exhibit many traits that humans value. They are family-oriented, devoted to their mates and their young.

They are intelligent, and long-lived — my colleagues and I have banded sandhill cranes that were identified over 40 years later in the wild. Cranes survive by their wits — and learning is a key to that long- term survival.  When you see these cranes return to us in the autumn, think about how many times some of those birds have made the long journey here … maybe longer than you have been alive!

Cranes are artists too in their own way. In summer — they paint their feathers with the iron-stained vegetation of the marshes to camouflage themselves on the nest. Their calls are appreciated as beautiful, haunting music. And of course, they dance — every species of crane has a unique dance, often interpreted by indigenous cultures around the world.

Why do they dance, you ask?  Einstein said — “Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better.”  Biologists believe cranes dance to demonstrate strength and prowess to a rival, to impress or show devotion to a mate, to express excitement, to prepare to fly. But — perhaps they also dance, as we do — simply because it is a joyful thing to be alive on this earth.

 Wendy Brown, Wildlife Biologist, 2019

 * Pueblo Folktale compiled inThe Quality of Cranes: A Little Book of Crane Lore By Betsy Didrickson (author), Jay Jocham (illustrator), copyright 2010