Watchable Wildlife: Sandhill Crane Viewing Opportunities Come to Lodi

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Watchable Wildlife: Sandhill Crane Viewing Opportunities Come to LodiEvery year visitors make their way to Lodi area refuges and farmlands to observe the sandhill crane migration. The rich Delta wetlands feature an abundance of crane habitat that sustains the birds and enriches the lives of those who travel to observe them.

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) hosts a docent program offering public tours for crane viewing. Tours will be held at Woodbridge Ecological Reserve, also known as Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve, on the first three Saturdays and Sundays of each month from October through February 2009. For more information on viewing sandhill cranes, visit www.dfg.ca.gov/regions/3/cranetour or call (209) 948-7708.

Thousands of sandhill cranes winter in the central valley grasslands and marshes, after returning annually to seasonal feeding and roosting habitats. These magnificent birds, with characteristic red-crowned heads, unique clicking vocalization, and distinct postures offer a wonderful wildlife viewing experience for avid birdwatchers and novices alike. The lesser sandhill crane, reaching a mature height of four feet, breeds in northern Canada and Alaska. And the greater sandhill crane, reaching up to five feet in height, breeds in northeastern California and parts of the Pacific Northwest. The cranes migrate to the Lodi area in the fall and stay through February.

Watchable Wildlife: Sandhill Crane Viewing Opportunities Come to LodiA crane-welcoming weekend is also coming up with the Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival scheduled Nov. 7-9. The festival celebrates the return of the greater and lesser Sandhill cranes to the Lodi area. More than 50 tours for viewing cranes and other birds are available with the price ranging from $10 to $25 depending on the tour length and area. Tour information for the festival event is available by calling 1-800-581-6150.

Event sponsors include DFG, Lodi Sandhill Crane Association, the city of Lodi, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Central Valley Joint Venture and others.

Greater sandhill cranes are listed as a threatened species under the California Endangered Species Act. DFG and other agencies and private organizations work to support sandhill crane recovery by acquiring wintering and nesting lands, buying conservation easements and converting farmlands back to wetlands. Restoration involves re-grading earth, pumping water, planting native vegetation and maintaining short ground cover. Citizens can support these efforts by contributing to California’s tax check-off program for threatened and endangered species.