Sandhill Crane Festival (Mar 22-24th, 2019)

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sandhill_crane_festival_coverConditions: walk
Gear: camera equipment
Map: n/a
Area: Othello, WA
Reference: n/a
Stats:
n/a

Well I finally made it out to the festival this year. It took over 20 years to get there. Better late than never.

Steve and I headed out early on Friday morning. We headed straight for the Community Hospital in Othello since Steve had an afternoon appointment there. After he was done, we decided to head up to Potholes State Park and poke around. We took our time driving up to the reservoir and when we got there we immediately spotted two very large eagles sitting in a tree. It was really hard to tell if these were immature bald eagles or immature golden eagles. There were lots of small waterfowl poking around the margins of the frozen reservoir. The drive up to Potholes SP and poking around pretty much consumed the rest of the afternoon and early evening. For the evening we headed back down to Othello for a lecture put on by the festival and afterwards we headed into Moses Lake for dinner.

Saturday morning we woke up and decided to head back down to Othello to try to find the cranes. We drove around, drove around some more, asked some help for where to find the cranes, and then drove around even more. But...no cranes. There are supposed to be 15,100 cranes in town and we couldn't find a single one. So hearing that they head back up to the refuge mid-day we decided to head up to the Marsh Overlook to check it out. Bingo. We saw some cranes but they had just taken flight right before we arrived and they disappeared into a rising spiral as the rode the thermals high into the sky.

After leaving the Marsh Unit we headed back down to Othello hoping to catch the cranes in the fields in the late afternoon. Again...lots of driving around with little luck. We drove a stretch of Lower Crab Creek Road (seeing nothing) and we reached the intersection of Gillis Road and Hwy 26 and were about to give up. I glanced over to my left and thought I saw something. I rolled my window down and sure enough...I head cranes. We spotted a large group of several hundred in a low field on the north side of Hwy 26 (west of where it meets up with Gillis Road). We pulled way off on the shoulder and spent some time trying to get some photos. It was hard, the light was getting low and the birds were way out on the field. Finished with this field we headed into town. We thought about trying to catch another lecture but all that was left for the day (and weekend) were crane tours. The bus was loading...Steve suggested following the bus to the cranes. Good idea Steve! We spent a lot of time just watching the cranes. They are pretty darned noisy. When it finally got dark enough to make photography hard we headed back up to Moses Lake for dinner.

Sunday morning arrived and we found it had rained overnight. The forecast had changed and it was calling for light rain most of the day. We decided to slowly head home. We ended up driving west on I90 and then exiting on Dodson Rd and then heading south toward Crab Creek. I figured we might have a chance to see something there. Lots of red winged blackbirds, various sparrow, and for me one of my favorites...western meadowlarks. We drove through the Crab Creek area all the way to Beverly and then wound our way back up to I90 and the rest of the drive home.
 
Sandhill Crane Festival Slideshow

columbia_national_wildlife_refuge_north_map  columbia_national_wildlife_refuge_south_map  sandhill_crane_viewing_guide
(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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