Our valley is renowned for its variety of birds, and people come from far and wide to watch them and add to their "life list". The corner stone of all this birding activity in the winter is the sand hill crane. They come here to spend the winter; the average number is 10,000, but 24,000 have been counted in some years. The cranes arrive in October from Montana, Alaska and sometimes southeastern Siberia. They spend their nights in several wet areas in the valley, rise at dawn, eat in the nearby agricultural fields, loaf a bit, eat some more, and go back to the wet places.
It is spectacular to watch the cranes leave their roost for the morning feeding. It occurs right before sunrise, and it is worth getting up early for. That's what we did today. The best site is about an hour away, but we were armed with scones and coffee, and dressed in long undies. Temperature in the valley was 21 degrees.
Our sighting began with a flyby from an owl, then it was nothing for awhile except for a rooster crowing far off, and then you start hearing the cranes before you see them, first just a few and then they come in waves. Literally thousands of birds. Spectacular. It's like being in a Nat Geo special.