Friday, August 1, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

California Rambling: Sandhill cranes

Sandhill Cranes 2

CRANES tour the viewing area during Lodi's Sandhill Crane Festival.

By
From page A4 | October 28, 2013 |

Lodi, California, will probably never be high on lists of top 10 winter vacation destinations, though for sandhill cranes, it’s No. 1. 

Important Subscriber Update

We will be switching to a new online subscription service on Tuesday, August 5th. If you are already a subscriber with login access to MtDemocrat.com you will need to re-register under the new service. This will not affect your bill. Please take the time today to click "Subscriber Verification" to verify your subscription with us and continue your access to MtDemocrat.com before the new service takes over.

We apologize for the temporary inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your patience and continued support while we make this transition.

- Mountain Democrat

1-Month Access
Subscriber Verification
Help?

From October through February, thousands of the large cranes return to California’s Central Valley near Lodi to spend the winter foraging dormant farmlands and their open grasslands, meadows and marshes. The return of the sandhill cranes attracts equally large numbers of people to watch one of nature’s most magnificent creatures, beginning with the Sandhill Crane Festival, Nov. 2 and 3 in Lodi.

Jane Adams, a Sandhill Crane Reserve volunteer docent, says she had never seen a bird this large “up-close-and-personal” until she saw her first fly-in of sandhill cranes. That’s when the birds land in the water each night.  She knew then and there that, “they were something special.”

On many return visits, Adams came to learn and appreciated their distinctive call (a deep rolling trumpet and rattle) and fascinating behaviors, including dancing, bowing, jumping, running, stick or grass tossing and wing flapping, often all part of a mating ritual, but mostly a normal part of their development, relieving tension, thwarting aggression and bonding with their mates.

Greater sandhill cranes stand three to five feet tall, weigh between 9 and 10 pounds and have a wing span of five to six feet. Both genders look alike, though males are a bit larger. These ancient (2.5 million-year-old fossils have been found), grey-brown birds with white cheeks and a splash of red across their foreheads are magnificent flyers. Their large wings pump fluidly and purposefully as they soar, aloft, covering great distances in a day. Upon landing, they stand on black, stilt-like legs, often lifting their long, pointed beaks toward the sky as they dance or call to one another.

Mated pairs of sandhill cranes do what’s called unison calling, in which one crane starts the call by trumpeting a sharp “Caw.”  The other crane replies with a rolling rattle “a-r-r-r-r-oo”.  The two calls come together like the swimming pool game of Marco Polo in a quick succession of “Caw/a-r-r-r-r-oo, Caw/a-r-r-r-r-oo, Caw/a-r-r-r-r-oo.”

A pair of sandhill cranes will stay together, year round. They live to as old as 20, dining on a diet of plant tubers, grains, insects, mice and snakes. Area farmers help the migration by not turning their fields, which means corn, grain, and bugs remain plentiful, attracting the cranes. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife further helps by pumping water onto farmlands within the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve/Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve, to provide a safe place for nighttime roosting (since the birds cannot roost in trees).

While a twilight fly-in is a favorite time to view the cranes, another special moment to be at the reserve is at first light. The day begins quietly, then the cranes begin their distinctive unison calls breaking the morning stillness which Adams describes as, “breathtaking.” After spending the day foraging on surrounding fields, the cranes return to the marshes at sunset. In addition to sandhill cranes, snow geese, many kinds of ducks, white faced Ibis, and stilts are common, as are hawks and owls, though Adams explains, “Once you’ve seen sandhill cranes, they’re very easy to identify on the ground or in flight.”

The best viewing occurs at the Woodbridge/Isenberg reserve where interpretative signs and a viewing mound provides elevated views of the birds. For the best viewing experience, birders recommend limiting movement, keeping at least 400 yards distant, being quiet and patient. Binoculars or spotting scopes help with seeing the birds closer. Adams said to expect crowds during the festival and while that might bother you, she says “the birds don’t seem to mind.”

Sandhill crane volunteers lead tours and share information regarding conservation, crane behavior, and how visitors to the reserve can help protect California wildlife. Adams said, “The docents come from a variety of backgrounds, though we all share a love of cranes. People interested in volunteering can contact David W. Moore Interpretive Services Supervisor for the CDF&W Bay Delta Region at 707-766-8380.

Viewing sandhill cranes is just one of the activities occurring at the Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival (Hutchins St. Square, Nov. 2 and 3).  In addition to guided field trips to see the cranes, there’ll be seminars, art shows, performances and wildlife presentations. The festival also includes a number of fun activities for kids that excite them about nature. Admission to the festival is free. Sandhill Crane tours cost $15 adult, $10 youth and $5 child and should be reserved now, as they fill quickly (http://www.cranefestival.com/tours.php). More about the Sandhill Crane Festival is found at cranefestival.com.

From October through February, the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve/Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve is open daily. It’s located 45 minutes south of Sacramento off I-5 at Peltier Rd. Tours of its South and North units are held the first three weekends of each month, by reservation (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/CraneReg/default.aspx). Tours are now full through December, though reservations for January tours open in mid-November. Greater and lesser sandhill cranes can also be seen at Sacramento County’s Cosumnes River Preserve (cosumnes.org).

John Poimiroo of El Dorado Hills is a travel writer who specializes in California destinations.

 

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    News

    Cameron Park house burns

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Supes delay petition

    By Chris Daley | From Page: A1

    Fire generated small city, inspired volunteers

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Sand Fire 95% contained

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1

     
    Two fires in town

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A3

    .

    Opinion

    Missing the point

    By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

     
    The weekly Daley: The wrong side of history

    By Chris Daley | From Page: A4

    Billingsley’s bullets: Advice from my psychiatrist

    By Bob Billingsley | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Letters

    Water conservation

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5Comments are off for this post

     
    Koby

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

    Debt reduction at EID with Coco?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    Time for change in CP

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

    Olives need less water

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    EID rate discrimination

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5Comments are off for this post

    Second Amendment

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5Comments are off for this post

     
    Pollock Pines’ Fourth of July Parade

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5Comments are off for this post

    .

    Sports

    Racing returns with big 5-division card

    By Bill Sullivan | From Page: A9

     
    Camp draws good numbers

    By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A9Comments are off for this post | Gallery

    New law tackles gridiron concussion problem

    By Mike Bush | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Outside with Charlie: Rafting denied

    By Charlie Ferris | From Page: A9

    Roundup: July 31, 2014

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Prospecting

    Sing while you paint

    By Placerville Arts Association | From Page: B1Comments are off for this post | Gallery

     
    Things to do: Aug. 1, 2014

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: B2

    The making of a champion

    By Special to the Democrat | From Page: B2

     
    Plenty of golden fun during SlugFest

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Art on the Divide is showing new exhibitor

    By Art On The Divide | From Page: B3

     
    ‘The Flu Season’ stirs emotions

    By Ovation Stage | From Page: B4

    Time to register for classes at Center Stage

    By Center Stage Dance Academy | From Page: B5

     
    Guitar group performs in Sutter Creek

    By Sutter Creek | From Page: B5

    Get a groove on in Sutter Creek

    By Sutter Creek | From Page: B8

     
    Chris Young in concert at Carson Valley Inn

    By Carson Valley Inn | From Page: B8

    The music continues at Bear Valley Music Festival

    By News Release | From Page: B8

     
    Sacramento Museums are celebrating

    By Sacramento Association Of Museums | From Page: B9

     
    .

    Essentials

    Weather stats

    By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

     
    Crime Log: July 17-19

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

    .

    Obituaries

    Lisa Oliver Rose

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

     
    Larry A. Randall

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

    Mark A. Smith

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

     
    Jeffie “Jeff” Lee Callahan

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

    Patsy Ruth Wing

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

     
    .

    Real Estate

    Decorating your home by the numbers

    By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS4

     
    Avoiding the deal killers

    By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS4

    Hilltop home views outrank water-front views

    Press Release | From Page: HS7

     
    Luxury home sales jump

    Press Release | From Page: HS11

     
    Pending home sales decrease in June

    Press Release | From Page: HS13

     
    Sheryl Lindroos joins American Heritage

    Press Release | From Page: HS17

    Sunny Rosabella exudes a warm ambiance

    Press Release | From Page: HS23

     
    .

    Comics

    .

    Home Source

    Decorating your home by the numbers

    By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS4

    Avoiding the deal killers

    By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS4

    Hilltop home views outrank water-front views

    Press Release | From Page: HS7

    Luxury home sales jump

    Press Release | From Page: HS11

    Pending home sales decrease in June

    Press Release | From Page: HS13

    Sheryl Lindroos joins American Heritage

    Press Release | From Page: HS17

    Sunny Rosabella exudes a warm ambiance

    Press Release | From Page: HS23