An activity once thought to primarily apply to teenagers and the inebriated, is soon to be upon us again. Catching thermals in the sky as they make their way along the Pacific Flyway, the Sandhill Cranes return to the Delta every year.
Traveling from Canada and Alaska, the cranes travel up to 400 miles a day to return to the same winter roost year after year. The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve (a.k.a. Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve) provides one of the Delta’s premier viewing habitats for these ancient birds.
Known as one of the oldest known surviving bird species dating back 10 million years, Sandhill cranes were nearly hunted to extinction in the Delta. Listing of the greater Sandhill crane as a threatened species in 1983 began the recovery of the species through strategies to provide key habitat for wintering and nesting cranes. Today, habitat loss, human disturbance and power-lines poise the greatest threats to Sandhill cranes.
The Hoppin is the crane’s courting dance, though they are known to hop for any good reason! Dressed in shades of gray with a bright red forehead, they stretch their wings, pump their heads, bow and leap. Standing an average of four feet tall with a wingspan of seven feet, the cranes make quite a sight out in an open field.
The Whoopin begins at dusk. While feeding on bugs and left over grains during the day, the cranes call for their mate at the communal roost. Cranes mate for life and stay with each other year round. Roosting in shallow water, they rest with head tucked under their wing.
Come watch the Fly-In! Docents for the Department of Fish and Wildlife lead a wetland tour of the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve beginning in October and lasting thru February. Book a tour and plan to arrive 90 minutes prior to sunset, at the south viewing site of the Preserve, which is off Woodbridge Road and open to the viewing public. Tour ends about 30 minutes after sunset, giving you plenty of time to enjoy a beautiful Delta sunset.
Sandhill Crane Wetland Tour
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