The Migration of the Sandhill Cranes
It’s a long drive (about 90 miles from SF)… but it’s worth it if you love the river delta, the fog in winter, the heat in the summer, the farms and unusual forms of wildlife. We made a recent road trip to see the Sandhill Cranes of the Central Valley, and got a bonus sighting in the form of Tundra Swans (hundreds of them).
Sandhill Cranes arrive by the thousands to roost and feed in the Central Valley, from Lodi down to Los Banos. One of the viewing spots is at Cosumnes River Preserve, just west of Galt and about 25 miles south of Sacramento on I-5.
Sandhill Cranes are tall and lanky with a distinctive call sometimes described as French horn — and their presence (and later season mating dance) draws throngs of interested observers to the cranes’ favorite haunts.
Sandhill Cranes mate for life. The birds travel great distances from Alaska and Siberia with their young in tow. When they arrive in Northern California, they’re honored with an annual Sandhill Crane Festival in Lodi.
The Cosumnes River Preserve announces their presence on the website, and tours bring visitors to see the birds to another nearby spot: the Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve. The cranes feed on fields during the day, then engage in the great “crane fly-in” before sunset, as they move en masse to their sleeping spots.
Cranes are not hunted in California, but according to the International Crane Foundation, over-hunting in other areas is a threat to their numbers, as is human encroachment on critical wetlands habitat. They are a sight to be appreciated in our day, their populations nearly wiped out by human predation and development earlier in the century.
More Information on Cosumnes and Cranes go to: www.cosumnes.org/