(For those not up to snuff on birding lingo, "FOS" stands for "first of season," and helps keep a record of the timing of migration by denoting when the first individuals of a migratory species show up each spring or fall. Over time, a pattern of certain migrants arriving earlier or later can point to larger-scale phenomena, like climate change. So, if you're out birding, be sure to note your FOS-es!)
During the last few weeks of September, I begin to feel it: a change in the air (despite the high temperatures), a restlessness in the natural world. Things are happening! I begin scanning the skies, checking the wetlands, listening a little bit more carefully. And then one day I hear it: the distinct croaking call of the Sandhill Crane!
Yesterday, I heard the call and was delighted to look up into the sky and see the familiar shapes of cranes flying in their neat v-formation, a flock forty birds strong headed south, presumably to one of the wetland areas not far out of town.
The arrival of the majestic Sandhill Cranes is one of the great events in the year of a naturalist in California's Great Central Valley.
Check out last year's post on the return of the Sandhill Cranes by clicking here.
If you too feel like getting in the spirit and celebrating the return of these remarkable and beautiful birds to our humble valley, mark your calendars for Lodi's annual Sandhill Crane Festival, taking place this year on November 2-4.
But if that seems like too long to wait, you can always head out in search of the majestic cranes before then; more flocks are arriving each day! Try visiting one of our local wetlands, like Merced National Wildlife Refuge or Cosumnes River Preserve.
Just as I finished writing this, a flock of 36 Sandhill Cranes flew over our house! I heard their calls and ran out to look for them... like a kid who hears sleigh bells on Christmas Eve!