MONTE VISTA — Each year from early February through late March, immense flocks of sandhill cranes make a pit-stop in the San Luis Valley during their northerly migration; most prominently, thousands stop off at the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge where visitors from all over come to snap photos and marvel at these amazing birds.
The annual migration regularly sees 20,000 or more cranes make a stop in southern Colorado as they prepare for their continued journey towards the northern United States and Canada.
The stop also serves as a time for the cranes to perform surprisingly complex dances.
According to the National Park Service, "Cranes mate for life, but each spring they renew their bond through a courtship ritual that includes dancing, bowing, chortling, and throwing tufts of grass in the air."
After a few weeks of rest, the sandhill cranes continue their journey north in late March, raising their young in their summering grounds before returning south in the fall.
The National Park Service reports that "they begin to arrive back in the San Luis Valley in late September, and leave by late November."
With as large as the spring migration is each year, it's no surprise that folks from far and wide make it a point to catch the event; in fact, the town of Monte Vista hosts their own annual Crane Festival where anyone and everyone can learn all about these avian visitors.
Crane watchers come from far and wide to join the celebration at the Monte Vista Crane Festival held the second weekend in March. While the festival offers outstanding opportunities for celebrating and understanding cranes and other wildlife, the common denominator that brings visitors back year after year is the 20,000 or so greater Sandhill Cranes and a few thousand Lesser Sandhills.
The migration annually draws hundreds of visitors to the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge, many of whom are snapping thousands of photos per day. The result is an inundation of crane-centric media each and every year.
If you're looking to catch your own photographs of this migratory event, you can find maps HERE.
For even more information on these amazing cranes, CLICK HERE.