Tag Archives: sandhill cranes

Sandhills & Leopold

One of my favorite summer neighbors is the sandhill crane, and that often surprises people. Like the sight of the aurora on a cold, winter night, the sound of a sandhill crane bugling will stop me in my tracks and I immediately scan the sky.

There are still a few sandhills hanging on around Fairbanks, but many have started their flight south to winter in warmer climates. I’ll miss their calls, but I’ll try to make do with the many nights of northern lights dancing across the sky.


Celebrating Cranes

This weekend is the 24th annual Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival. Events will be held Friday through Sunday at the Creamers Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge. There will be guided hikes, talks with biologists, birding activity and more out at Creamers. Of course, the trails are well worth hitting without the guides.

Sandhill Cranes usually start staging in early August for their migration south. An average autumn will see 150,000 to 200,000 cranes fly through the Tanana Valley.


The return of the Sandhill Cranes

A pair of Sandhill Cranes surrounded by ducks and geese at Creamers Field

On Monday morning, when I was getting things ready for the day’s job, I heard the first Sandhill Crane calls of the season. Their ancient, rattling bugle echoed across the valley floor, and I stopped immediately to search for the source. It was a pair of cranes, and they flew in low as they announced their return to the valley.

By Tuesday morning, the sounds of the sandhills could be heard from all directions in the valley.

The photo was taken last spring at Creamers Field Waterfowl Refuge before the birds spread out across the state and beyond.

Camera: Leica M3; Film: Kodak 35mm, Ektar 100

Listen to the sounds of the sandhill cranes


Virtual Cranes

“When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.” –Aldo Leopold – Marshland Elegy, A Sand County Almanac.

The sandhill cranes of Wisconsin

I’m slow to embracing the virtual world, but now that winter has arrived in the North, and plenty of time on my hands, but without the inclination to travel anywhere, I’ve done some virtual exploring.

In the spring, the Platte River in Nebraska is the place to be, to see the siege of sandhill cranes flying through to eat and rest before heading further north. In the autumn, however, the Wisconsin River near Baraboo, WI is a major stopover for this ancient breed of birds.

The Aldo Leopold Foundation usually offers tours and blinds for crane viewing and photography in the fall, but 2020 is not the year for those types of activities. Instead, they offered a virtual visit to the Wisconsin River and the over 10,000 cranes that are camping out along its banks. I joined one of these visits this week, and found it incredibly informative, and well produced. Still, no virtual visit compares to seeing the sandhill crane in person, or hearing and feeling that prehistoric bugle as it flows through you from across the terrain and the eons.

Luckily, next spring, I won’t have to go beyond my deck to experience them again.

The above video is one done previously by the International Crane Foundation and the Aldo Leopold Foundation.


Fairbanks and Covid-19; So far…

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The Carlson Center: Home of the Alaska Nanooks

The ice hockey arena, where the University of Alaska Nanooks play their home games, was recently converted to an overflow, field hospital.  The arena adds 100 beds at the moment, to the 38 beds at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital set aside for Corvid-19 patients, and the 26 beds in the intensive care unit.  Like every community around the globe, everyone here hopes the arena beds are never used.

Alaska had 13 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday.  The state total was now at 226 cases, still the lowest of every U.S. state, but our population is also among the lowest.  27 Alaska residents have been hospitalized, and the state has seen seven deaths, with two of those deaths taking place Outside.

Fairbanks had six of those new cases, for a total of 71 in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

The city of Dillingham, Alaska and the Curyung Tribal Council recently sent a request to the governor to close the Bristol Bay commercial fishery.  That was huge news in Alaska.  Bristol Bay is the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.  Both entities told the State of Alaska that there was no way to limit the small communities exposure to the virus, and the communities lack the health care resources to handle a pandemic.  Tens of thousands of fishermen and fish processors will soon start their migration into the region, as we get closer to the fishing season.  There has been no official response from the State of Alaska, although fishery workers are considered “essential” by the State.

Conoco Phillips, the oil field giant, has shut down its remote North Slope oil fields, and have placed them into long-term storage due to coronavirus concerns.  A BP worker at Prudhoe Bay had recently been diagnosed with the disease, putting several workers in quarantine.

Travel to Alaska by nonresidents is obviously frowned upon.  Visitors are expected to quarantine for 14 days if they do arrive in the state.  The cruise ship industry will not be visiting Alaskan ports until July at the earliest.  Alaska has little, to no say in that.  All Canadian ports of call are closed until July 1.  An intriguing maritime law prohibits international cruise ships from carrying U.S. citizens from one U.S. port to another.  In other words, they can not go from Seattle, Washington to Skagway, Alaska without a stop at a foreign port – namely a Canadian port.  Until Canada opens its ports, Alaskan ports will remain closed to the cruising industry.


Personal note:

Several blogs that I follow have asked the question: “What is the proper way to blog during this event?”  A few have even stopped blogging altogether.  I honestly don’t have an answer.  I rarely spend much time worrying about proper, so I’m probably not the guy to ask.  As for Circle to Circle, I don’t intend to ignore the current situation, but I’m not going to dwell on it either.  Every post will not be Covid-19 related, but that doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention to world events or that I’m not sympathetic to the suffering and losses.  It isn’t hard for me to get as much coverage as I want on the Covid-19 virus, the difficulty is in limiting it to a manageable amount.  One can quickly get overwhelmed, and then it’s hard to pull back out of the funk.

For now, I will continue to do what I do here, which is mainly to blog about Alaska, and its wonderful quirks.  Circle to Circle started out to chronicle a long trip, and I still think it’s at it’s best when I’m writing about traveling.  Travel will have to stay close to Fairbanks for the foreseeable future, so maybe I can pull some rabbits out of the local hat.

I sincerely think it’s important to remember that there are a lot of beautiful things happening every day out there, among the chaos and uncertainty.  Maybe now, more than ever, it is worthwhile to point those things out as they happen.  The moose cows will give birth this spring, and I will have little, gangly moose calves wandering about in short order.  The sandhill cranes will soon be flying into the region, bugling their ancient call from the skies and tundra.  The puddles and ponds will be full of ducks and muskrats, and the beaver will emerge from their domed hut – hopefully with kits.

Everything changes, and, of course, this blog can change at the drop of a wood duck chick.  This was/is always going to be a work in progress.  Stop by for a virtual Alaskan break, if that pleases you; feel free to fly over, if you feel Circle to Circle is not your pint of choice.  Ask questions, leave comments, drop me a line if you’d like.  We are all in this together, even as we stay apart.

Stay safe, and keep your distance.

 

 

 


South Bound

The past few weeks, we have had an influx of visitors, as the sandhill crane population increased exponentially. A few stragglers still remain, but most have headed further south on their annual autumn migration. I will miss their prehistoric trumpet from the marsh as they winter Outside.


“The crane is wilderness incarnate”

The Wisconsin River near Baraboo has become a late season congregation point for the sandhill crane. As many as 10,000 cranes converge here to rest and stock up before heading to their wintering grounds. It’s an impressive wildlife resurgence.

The sandhill crane had all but disappeared from the upper Midwest by the early 1930’s. The last of the breeding populations were gone from Illinois in 1890, Iowa in 1905, South Dakota in 1910, Ohio in 1926, and Indiana in 1929. By the 1930’s, there were only a few dozen cranes left in the state of Wisconsin.

I have a thing for cranes. Their lonely bugle call from the swamps always stops me in my tracks. Their migration in and out of Alaska is a bi-annual highlight of living in Alaska. Luckily, the population has been growing since the 1980’s, and this section of the Wisconsin River has been vital for that to happen.

The Aldo Leopold Foundation offers viewing tours along the Wisconsin River, behind Leopold’s Shack in November and December.

“When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.”
— Aldo Leopold

The Aldo Leopold Foundation offers viewing tours along the Wisconsin River, behind Leopold’s Shack in November and December.

The video and statistics come courtesy of The Aldo Leopold Foundation. The title quote is from Aldo Leopold’s “Marshland Elegy”