by Darcy Thomas
At dawn on September 29 a group of six early risers braved stormy skies to meet field trip leader Darcy Thomas to watch Sandhill Cranes as they lifted off the West Valley Ponds to forage and refuel in nearby agricultural fields before continuing their southward migration. There were close to 500 cranes milling about in the ponds prior to lift off. First to fly off were Mallards followed by Canada Geese. Then the cranes began to take flight, several at a time, as they flew mostly east and south. These beautiful, graceful birds are such a joy to watch and truly made for a special morning. We saw a total of 19 species including a Great Gray Owl spotted during our travels by Hillary Crowley.
Other notables were several Northern Harriers hunting over the pothole wetlands and three immature Bald Eagles.