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Birds of the Western Slope March 16, 2016

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© Peter Barth

Cranes!

And the time is NOW! As I admire Peter's photo, my mind races back to the spring of 2015, and then to all the springs before. Back in 1995 I agreed to monitor our cranes as they pass through Harts Basin/Fruitgrowers Reservoir. When we came to Delta County, most of the people that I met at the reservoir referred to it as Harts Basin and so I've used that name ever since.

This afternoon Dave Galinat called to tell me that the ice was breaking up today -- and that there were six bald eagles at the pond. So now I can look forward to our sandhill cranes. During the first few weeks of March we usually have a few cranes appear. Then, by the middle of the month, we can usually rely on large groups coming in the afternoon and taking off before noon the next day.

Eckert Crane Days is scheduled for March 18-20. Crane viewing at the reservoir will be all three days. Then on the 19th at 1 p.m. Dan Neubaum presents "Big Cliffs and Little Pools: Their Importance to Bats." Dan has devoted 17 years to studying these little mammals and his presentation should be most interesting! In the past, I was a member of the Bat Conservation organization and I'm looking forward to this event!

During the spring migration, when the reservoir is filled, the water's depth in the north ponds is just right for roosting (six to 12 inches). The birds stand in the water, often on one leg to sleep, with their favored spots in the shallow ponds along the north shores. This is where we can see huge flocks as they prepare to take off, usually between 9:30 a.m. and noon.

Now the migration has begun! Plenty of birds tonight! In the spring migration the cranes come to Harts Basin by the thousands: safety is in numbers as the birds make their way to nesting grounds to our north. After they leave Harts Basin, the huge flocks slowly break up and the pairs move on to their nesting site. So we think of cranes in terms of the gregarious birds that we see in spring. But they soon become solitary, with each pair claiming a territory to sustain them and their chicks for the summer. So our cranes have two distinct lifestyles.

My phone (835-8391) serves as our crane hotline. Feel free to call.

To date we have 2,660 cranes at the basin.

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Surface Creek
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Birds of the Western Slope, Evelyn Horn
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