[Tweeters] Sandhill Cranes

Randy Hill re_hill at q.com
Wed Mar 29 11:41:15 PDT 2017

Sorry about the delay in reporting on the Sandhill Crane Festival in
Othello. I got back Monday evening and had a 5-day pile waiting for me.

Without a doubt, the best opportunity to see cranes in the area is to attend
the festival; this year's event was the 20th. After locals and FWS searched
the area for much of the week, several of us scouted Thursday afternoon and
Friday to locate crane flocks and determine the best routes for tours Friday
evening, Saturday morning and evening, and Sunday morning; some viewing has
permission to enter areas not otherwise accessible to the public. After
that the scouting ends and it becomes word of mouth. And it is an iterative
process since cranes don't always return to the same areas. By the weekend
of April 8-9 a main night roost south of Othello (Scooteney Reservoir)
likely will be flooded deep enough to eliminate the roost as irrigation
water delivery begins, but other areas should have plenty of cranes.

This transition to spring has been a bit different from past years. The
Columbia Basin had a hard winter with temperatures and snow cover. Field
preparation for spring planting is behind and there is as much corn stubble
remaining as I have seen in at least a decade. That is good for migrating
cranes as fields remain available for feeding across a wide area, but they
also can be widely dispersed. Once cultivation begins the timeline shortens
as an individual field's food resources are depleted, but those fields can
be very good. One recently disked field off Paradise Road immediately east
of the Scooteney Reservoir entrance had around 1000 cranes. Friday morning
the Scooteney roost had about 3000 cranes, and I followed their flight to
locate the field. On the way I ran into a large blackbird flock that
included at least 100 Tricolored Blackbirds (code 5 for Franklin County,
although likely annual as they nested last year in Adams and Walla Walla
counties.) The area where Broadway turns into McManamon Road near the RR
tracks and grain transfer at the NW end of Othello is much more reliable.

Over the next two weeks I would expect most cranes using corn, adjacent
alfalfa fields, and pastures along the Crab Creek corridor and Royal Slope
off SR26. The traditional Corfu fields of Columbia NWR were just starting
to attract cranes after the corn there was mowed less than two weeks ago,
but that field is a bit difficult to see from public roads. SW of Othello
the McKinney-Bench Road area had plenty of standing corn stubble as well.
Much of the crane flock roosting in Marsh Unit 1 of CNWR was foraging on the
hill north of Mardon Resort (Potholes Reservoir) between Roads H & I and
Roads 9 & 10.5 SE. Unfortunately some visitors directed to that area on
Saturday (away from where crane viewing busses were routed) did not respect
private property and ventured into the fields where cranes were feeding.
Royal Lake is hosting a big goose population with 20,000+ Canada/Cackling
and maybe 1000 Snow Geese, and the refuge field at Road E SE a mile west
probably will have cranes as well.

A few other notes on the weekend. Three road closures that I know of:
Scooteney Road between Coyan and Muse/Mail Roads; Morgan Lake Road at Crab
Creek (water releases from Potholes flooded Crab Creek so entry to Marsh
Units 1 and 2 are from the north at SR262 rather than from McManamon);
Danielson Road between Bench Road and SR26. As I mentioned the winter is
slowly transitioning to spring. Although I saw five swallow species their
numbers were low. Yellow-headed Blackbirds were just arriving, Say's
Phoebes were few. Other than decent numbers of Long-billed Curlews and
Killdeer, shorebirds were non-existent; no stilts or avocets. No Prairie
Falcons found at last year's nest sites of Morgan Lake (west of CNWR office)
or top of Saddle Mountain. Loggerhead Shrikes and Sagebrush Sparrows
(Wahluke Slope) in good numbers but sparrows in general were few, and no Am.
Tree Sparrows. That said, three notables were a Vesper Sparrow at refuge
headquarters off Morgan Lake Road, and a Golden-crowned Sparrow and two
Sooty Fox Sparrows in woods near the old Wahluke>Hanford townsite boat ramp.
A pair of Trumpeter Swans on Halfmoon Lake south of the CNWR office should
be monitored in case they decide to stick around. Mike Denny, Bob Flores,
and other tour leaders or attendees might have more to add than I have
mentioned, and of course check ebird.

Randy Hill


From: tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu
[mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of Ruby Newton
Sent: Wednesday, March 29, 2017 7:53 AM
To: tweeters at u.washington.edu; tweeters at uw.edu
Subject: [Tweeters] Sandhill Cranes

Does anyone have any current information on the Sandhill Cranes over near

We may not be able to get there this weekend and have been wondering about
the 8th and 9th of April.

Thank You,


mojaveruby at hotmail.com

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