I was delighted to find quite a few Sandhill Cranes in the Centennial Valley of Montana last week and this pair was close enough to photograph. The male is nearly finished molting and has become mostly gray compared to the reddish color they have during breeding season when they stain their feathers with soil.
During my time in the Centennial Valley I saw several flocks ranging from 10 to 26 individuals. It is nearing the time when the Sandhill Cranes will migrate south for the winter and perhaps this pair will pass through Utah on their way to their wintering grounds.
The female appeared more stained than the male but she is no where near as red as she would have been even a month ago. I was disappointed that this pair did not have young with them, they may have lost their chicks due to a cold snap during the incubation period or lost the chicks to predation. Young sandhills generally stay with their parent for around 328 days and if this pair’s young had survived they would have been nearby.
This image shows the difference in the cranes stained plumage well I think though I am not sure why the female shows more of the reddish stain than the male.
The male did some dancing, jumping and calling while I photographed him. I am not sure though if that was because of our presence or if it was to maintain the pair bond.
I have never been to the Centennial Valley of Montana where I didn’t see or hear Sandhill Cranes and for me it would be very strange to be in the valley when the cranes aren’t there. Any day now though they will leave the valley until early next spring when their calls will once again trumpet in the valley.
Life is good.