Sunday, November 16, 2008
Birds of a feather
Tucked away in an ordinary looking field off Interstate-5 near Lodi is a landing field for a very special flight. Wetlands stretch out into the distance and this time of year marks the arrival of a special guest. Sandhill Cranes on their migration routes make a stop in these muddy fields as San Joaquin County plays host to their travels.
From late September through February the cranes stay in the fields as they forage for food by day and roost in the marshlands by night. The cranes numbers can vary from several hundred to the thousands as they fly about the area in search of food before gathering for their nightly roost.
The Sandhill crane is an impressive bird. With a 10-foot-long wingspan and 48-inch long neck they are an imposing sight in the fields. Their time sitting in the field is punctuated with the occasional dance as they leap into the air to either attract their mate or warn off a neighbor invading their space.
Their home for these few months in the county is called the White Slough Wildlife Area Woodbridge Ecological reserve or as it is better known, the Isenberg Crane Reserve. A public viewing area is open to the public at all times while another viewing area is open only to docent lead tours.
Gathered in the twilight with a gorgeous setting sun lighting the sky we could hear the calls of the cranes as hey headed home for the night. Black birds swirled above us as flocks of Canada geese cruised past the wetlands. In the darkness we could see the Sandhill cranes arrive and disappear in the grass. In the darkness all you could hear were the calls of the cranes and the geese as they settled in for the night.
With darkness arriving and no light for more pictures we headed home as the cranes continued to arrive. It was a great opportunity to see and photograph the cranes as they make their yearly visit and a trip well worth making.