Each year thousands of sandhill cranes create a majestic spectacle at Fruitgrowers Reservoir in Eckert as they pass through on their northern migration to nesting grounds in Canada and Alaska. While the numbers vary from day to day, visitors can expect to see hundreds of cranes in the pastures and wetlands that surround the reservoir.
Members of the Black Canyon Audubon Society will be on hand with spotting scopes and binoculars to help bird watchers get up close and personal with these majestic birds. They will also explain the daily routine. In the late afternoon and evening flocks of cranes will spiral down to land in Harts Basin. As the cranes flare their wings to land, they are greeted with squawks from the birds on the ground in a beautiful and noisy chorus.
In the morning, as the temperature rises to create thermals in the air current, the cranes lift off in large groups. The cranes will search out these rising air currents, circling as they build enough altitude to carry them over the Grand Mesa to continue their journey north.
For the best view of this spectacular morning liftoff, bird watchers will want to be in position along North Road by 10 a.m. Bring a chair or two -- this is a natural process and not on a specific schedule.
On Saturday, March 17, Western States Ranches in Harts Basin next to the reservoir, will host a lunch. Everyone is invited to visit with local conservation organizations and other crane lovers. Directions to the event will be available at the Audubon table at the view point along North Road.
One way to track the spring migration is to visit eckertcranedays.com. This website explains what to expect, including a daily estimate of the number of cranes at the reservoir. It also includes viewing tips to make your time with the sandhill cranes a memorable experience.
The seventh annual Eckert Crane Days, the annual viewing of the sandhill cranes migrating north from New Mexico through Colorado's West Slope, will be March 16-18. Representatives from the Black Canyon Chapter of the Audubon Society (BCAS) will be at the viewing site east of Eckert at Fruitgrowers Reservoir, 9 to 11 a.m. each day, to answer questions and provide binoculars and spotting scopes.