The 2019 edition of Eckert Crane Days took place last weekend from March 15-17. And, even though only small flocks of sandhill cranes showed up, the three-day event attracted several dedicated birders. Saturday, March 16 was the most crowded day with more than seventy people scanning the weeds and sky and water around Fruitgrower's Reservoir east of Eckert -- all hoping for glimpses and photographs of the large birds.
Throughout the weekend, members of the Black Canyon Audubon Society were on hand with literature and information and spotting scopes. According to the society's spring newsletter, Dian Trophy of Cedaredge and Marilyn Westerdahl of Montrose provided leadership for the event this year. Trophy is also the society's treasurer and Westerdahl serves on the board and coordinates membership. Absent this year was dedicated birder, avid outdoorsman, and dependable crane-counter, Jim Wallace of Eckert who died last summer. Jim Durr and others have continued his work and their count estimates taken last weekend ranged from a low of 13 birds to a high of 55. Earlier in March as many as 100 birds were counted in a single evening. A total of 600 have been counted since the end of February.
This year's Crane Days began on Friday, March 15, as 50 people attended an afternoon reception held at the Graystone Restaurant in Eckert where Dr. David Noe presented a program on the cranes and the reservoir. At noon on Saturday Hart's Basin Ranch joined with Zack's of Hotchkiss to host a free barbeque for 132 hungry folks. On Saturday and Sunday Stacy's on Main from Cedaredge served coffee and baked goods.
Though the official viewing days have come and gone, the migrating cranes will continue to arrive and depart throughout the spring. Crane generally arrive in the evening and lift off in mid to late morning. The cranes usually travel in larger flocks during the spring migration as they return to nesting grounds to the north. Observers will hear the crane's distinctive trill as the flocks circle over the reservoir and then descend to land.
Visitors can also spot herons and a variety of eagles, ducks, and shore birds at the reservoir.