Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sandhill Crane Migrations - Finding the cranes in the Southwest US

It's getting to be Sandhill Crane time. If you are fortunate to witness migrating Sandhill Cranes it is not a sight you will soon forget. If you are living in or traveling in the Southwest, for example, there will be some great opportunities to see these magnificent birds.

New Mexico: Last year, in early November, more than 1,500 Sandhill cranes flew into the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge on their annual winter journey south. I had the pleasure of seeing some of them. Here is a photo gallery that I compiled from that trip. The Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge is 80 miles east of Santa Fe.

The refuge is open to the public every Sunday in November for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can drive by the lakes and riparian habitat that is not usually open to the public. And, there are special programs during this time. Call the office to inquire. One can't schedule these birds. When they show up, it is a spectacle.

The Sunday I was there, the office was filled with birders, there was a very long list of birds that were sighted that day and a special program was being held where birds of prey would be brought in for the visitors to see.

The preserve provides habitat for eagles, hawks, snow geese, cranes and dozens of other species. The refuge is on N.M. 281, just east of Las Vegas, N.M. For more information on the refuge, call the Visitor Services Office at 505-425-3581or visit their website

Bosque Del Apache is where the world's largest concentration of sandhill cranes migrate every fall. Thousands of birds including sandhill cranes, Arctic geese, and many kinds of ducks--gather each autumn and stay through the winter. Bosque del Apache is located south of Albuquerque. along 9 miles of the Rio Grande. Website The Friends of the Bosque has a website where they list events and tours.

Southern Arizona: Temperatures are mild in Southern Arizona so it makes for a great stop while migrating. Birders also flock to Southern Arizona to enjoy the gatherings of migrating birds. You can visit the winter home of more than 30,000 sandhill cranes in Willcox, Arizona, and witness their amazing dawn flight. Willcox holds the annual "Wings Over Willcox" nature festival. to celebrate the Sandhill Crane and other migratory birds. Map of crane viewing sites.

Photo Copyright: Elizabeth Rose Photography