Posted by: atowhee | January 1, 2017


We went to Sauvie Island to begin our new year.  First we stopped at Cedar Chest Stable on Hwy 47 in north Yambill County.  We stopped there again in the afternoon by which time the temp had climbed from freezing to 39. In the morning white icing covered rocks and fallen trees, ferns and tufts of grass.  The overnight snow had been rained on and then refrozen.

Cornelius Pass Road had two inches of slush along its edges at the top the ridge before we dropped back down into the Columbia River Valley.

Around 12:30PM on Sauvie Island we sat out a brief blizzard. That followed a brief ice fall of tiny crystals pretending to fall like rain but making a soft crackling sound as they hit. The cranes were ignoring the weather and working the fields. For over two decades we’ve had a sporadic family tradition of going to see wintering cranes. Our first trips were the long drive from San Francisco into the Sacramento Delta.  Today’s trip was much shorter, McMinnville to Sauvie and around, less than 126 miles total. Cranes never disappoint whether you see them in Oregon, Champagne or Uganda.  A March visit to Nebraska to hundreds of thousands of northbound cranes must surely be the most emotional wildlife spectacle left in the lower 48 states.  At one time a few million bison might have been more..

Some crane images:crne1crne2

YOUNGSTER OVER-STEPS?     Watch this sequence as one crane, apparently a juvie because I see now rust staining on the wings or other feathers, jumps, falls and jumps again–this maneuver  is not in the Sandhill Crane handbook of dance steps:crne3crne3bcrne3ccrne3dcrne3eAre the other cranes watching me or nonplussed by the crane in the mud?crne3fThen he gets back up, maybe mumbling “I did that on purpose, watch my next jump.”cren3hcrne3jFive frames after he’s back up, he tucks his head and launches another jump.crne3kAs part of this dance step there’s a radical side-kick.crne3mThis move ends with a solid landing and then a short rush forward, perhaps a bow in search of footlights.  Do cranes ever applaud?  Clacking of beaks?crne3ncrne3pExcept for the pratfall none of this bird’s moves are actually unusual, cranes will often kick out their feet, a move to warn and stave off unwelcomed encroachers.

A young eagle passed over a marsh, sending many of the geese into honking, during the snowfall we stopped for  lunch and I took this shot of an adult eagle out the window, note the white streaks of snow between lens and flotilla of male Common Mergansers were tucked into a quiet cove along Multnomah Channel near the houseboats.come-rvr

Click here for more New Year’s Day images.



  1. […] Click here for images of dancing crane making cool moves before a crowd of other cranes. […]

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