Carol maintains a blog for our area and posted this yesterday. We thought you might find it interesting. Monte Vista is 17miles west of Alamosa, Colorado. The photos were taken by friends who have a cabin here in Forbes Park and live in Colorado Springs.
Celebrating Spring in the Valley of the Cranes
28th Annual Monte Vista Crane Festival
2011 Festival dates are March 11-13
Late in February, sandhill cranes, the San Luis Valley’s oldest visitors, begin their annual trek from south to north, stopping off near the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge to load up on fuel. For millions of years, the sandhills have been spending their "Spring Break" in Colorado’s Valley of the Cranes and more recently, wildlife watchers have been drawn to wonder at this phenomenal natural spectacle.
The greater sandhill cranes you will see during the Monte Vista Crane Festival are part of the 20,000 strong Rocky Mountain flock that spends part of each spring and fall in the San Luis Valley, as they have for millennia.
In late February they start arriving from their wintering grounds at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. They will be here until late March or early April eating the grain that will support them as they fly 850 miles north to their summer breeding grounds at Grays Lake National Wildlife refuge in southeastern Idaho.
It is also in the San Luis Valley that the cranes perform their courtship dance, leaping and bowing while raising and lowering their wings, and making a croaking sound to one another. Once a male and female bond they form a pair for life.
Greater sandhill cranes are about four feet tall with a six foot wingspan. They weigh around twelve to thirteen pounds and are uniformly gray except for a red patch of skin on their foreheads.
You may also see similar-looking but much smaller birds in the area. These are lesser sandhill cranes, and about 1,200 of them are part of the Rocky Mountain flock. Most lesser sandhill cranes stay east of the Continental Divide in a flock of 500,000 that make a well-known migratory stop in the Platte River basin of Nebraska.