Docent-led sandhill crane tours begin at Woodbridge Ecological Reserve
Scheduled for two or three weekends each month from October through February, the docent-led tours are the only way to access some of the prime viewing areas at the reserve where the large birds migrate for the winter.
"The greater sandhill cranes are a threatened but stable bird population in the state," said DFG Tour Program Supervisor David Moore. "Wetland tour visitors often comment on their large size and red crown, their beauty in flight, their trumpeting calls and interesting interactive behaviors."
The popular tours are expected to offer better viewing opportunities thanks to some habitat enhancements and structural improvement projects recently completed by the DFG, including a new bird-viewing blind that allows for 360-degree viewing.
An $8-per-person donation is requested, and pre-registration is required as each tour is limited to 30 people. A nice feature is that the DFG website's registration page shows if a certain date is full and, if not, how many spots are available. Tours through November are currently full -- a registration window will open approximately six weeks before each month's tour.
Lodi will be holding the 13th annual Sandhill Crane Festival Nov. 5-7. A separate, expanded tour schedule will be offered those dates.
Greater sandhill cranes, one of the state's largest birds -- about 5 feet tall and with a wingspan up to 7 feet -- are considered a threatened species; an estimated 7,000 are left in California.
-- Kelly Burgess
Photo: Sandhill cranes glide in for a landing. Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times