Correction: It has been brought to my attention by a knowledgeable birder that the bird in the first three photos is a blue heron, not a sandhill crane, as I wrote below. As is the case with instant replay in sports, the goal is to get it right, so Thank You, Tom, and keep following us.
Standing a regal four feet tall and boasting wing spans of more than six feet, sandhill cranes are one of the oldest living species of birds in the world--fossils of these birds date back 10 million years.
And as we headed along Woodbridge Road west of I-5 a few miles north of Lodi, CA, we were greeted by this majestic sandhill crane.
Sunset is the prime viewing opportunity for the daily “crane fly-in” from September to early March when the cranes establish their residence along the Pacific Flyway in the Reserve. The greater sandhill cranes (which stand about five feet tall) travel from Washington, Oregon, and northern California to their winter home around Lodi; the shorter lesser sandhill cranes stop in Lodi briefly on their migration from Alaska, Canada, and even Siberia to Mexico.
Another threat to the crane's continued existence was the California Gold Rush. During this time, the birds were sold like turkeys in San Francisco butcher shops. But in the past two decades, its population here has stabilized, with the help of new, crane-friendly farm practices that have helped preserve its habitat.
The Nature Conservancy partners with farmers, government and nonprofit groups to manage crops, grasslands and water to provide food and shelter for cranes and other birds on the Pacific Flyway migratory path.
I like that description.