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Monte Vista Crane Festival
March 9 - March 11$5 – $15
Thousands of Sandhill Cranes will soon be descending upon the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado’s scenic San Luis Valley. To celebrate the crane’s return, the 35th annual Monte Vista Crane Festival will be held March 9 – 11, 2018.
The cranes congregate in the refuge partly because the San Luis Valley is along their migratory route from their wintering grounds in New Mexico to nesting grounds further north. It’s also because the refuge staff works hard throughout the year to plant barley and maintain healthy wetlands. Just before the crane fest, they mow large swaths of barley close to public viewing areas, which draw the birds to feast on the fallen grain and small animals attracted to the seeds. Sunrise and sunset tours offered during the festival take birders to these “hotspots,” where they typically see thousands of cranes.
Crane experts host the two-hour-long tours, highlighting interesting facts about the birds along the way, like how they mate for life. It’s also possible to spot coyotes, eagles, great-horned owls, hawks and a variety of duck species.
Sandhill Cranes are large birds with a distinguishing crimson cap on their heads that make them hard to miss as they forage. Their graceful courtship dance, unique trumpeting calls and mass flyouts are thrilling to see. “Here you can get pretty close to the cranes,” says refuge manager Suzanne Beauchaine. “And then we’ve got the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background. It’s an incredible setting.”
This year’s crane fest includes sunrise and sunset tours, photography workshops, raptor tours and fieldtrips to Zapata Ranch (near the Great Sand Dunes National Park) and a unique natural area in the foothills of the San Juan Mountains called Elephant Rocks. Experts will present on topics such as waterfowl, wetlands and prairie dogs, and there’s a daily craft and nature fair featuring artists from the Valley and beyond. There will also be two movies offered this year: Disney’s “Wings of Life” and “Million Dollar Duck: Paint Ducks, Save Ducks.”
For festival details and tour registration, visit www.mvcranefest.org. Registration deadline is March 7, 2018. For more information, visit www.montevistachamber.org or call 719-852-2731. For media requests, contact [email protected]