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Birds of the Western Slope Dec. 6, 2017

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Photo by Bill Schmoker

Cranes are back

Monday -- As we pull in, our headlights are bright against the garage door ... I miss the long days of summer! Overcast and damp and I'm ready for spring but winter isn't even here yet. As the garage door closes, we step outside.

Cranes!

Allen and I both hear them ... sounds like a big group. Back into the garage, into the car and up to Crane Point. It is dark now! With the spotting scope, I can make out white blobs along the north shore (I guess it's the shore) which would be our few pelicans. Down to the causeway. Stop ...

can't see anything that might be a bird. Listen closely. Crane sounds. Wonderful!

When we arrive home, the light's blinking on the voice mail: Wallace and Vela have heard the birds too. Great!

Tuesday -- All of the cranes are down on the west end of the reservoir foraging along but they look "scraggly," all wet with muddy feet. There's a pair in a weedy patch -- put down the front foot, lift the back leg and kick backward, mud flies. But the birds' feet are still clogged with mud ...

shake-kick-shake and take another step. Finally, dry ground, more or less. Looks tough to me!

Not raining right now. And there's a group of three, a family? The mated pair and this last spring's chick? Of course, the chick is now a fledgling and as big as its parents. It follows closely ...

magnification up. The top of the head is a rusty color, no red crown has developed yet. A juvenile ... what a treat!

Try to get a count ...

magnification back down. They're moving around now. Here are several in single file -- all my cranes in a row! Walking through the mud. Check for the big view with the binoculars. Stop and listen-look for a moment. In the fall our cranes move through our area quietly, in small groups and often merely a family of the mated pair or the pair and their fledgling. What were the conditions of weather or forage or predators that led to this?

Not to worry. And I'm happy!



***



Update: People are reporting large numbers of cranes in the fields along the Gunnison River, south of Highway 50. Last weekend as many as 4,000 were reported along G Road near Delta. Walkers along the trails of Confluence Park are hearing cranes across the river, especially as they settle in for the evening.

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Surface Creek
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Birds of the Western Slope, Evelyn Horn
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