Week 241 November 10, 2018

Loren and I were in Lodi for their Sand Hill Crane Festival at the start of this week. We took in 3 tours and the festival dinner while we were there. 

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Our friends who had moved to Valley Springs a few years ago came to meet us for the one Fly-In tour and the festival dinner. Sadly, because we were booked for the dinner we had to leave the viewing site – with a beautiful sunset over Mt Diablo in the distance – early, so we only saw a few groups, families, pairs or individuals fly in for their roost. It was still impressive. We learned that cranes roost in shallow water overnight because the water allows them to hear predators – like coyote. If they try to roost in deeper water however, they are unable to push off for flight. When they do fly in, the sight is accompanied by the sounds of their purring sort of call, and sometimes they spread their seven-foot wide wingspan after they land, which to see seems like they are yawning.

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We also were able to see egrets, herons, and hawks, among other flocks of birds.

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The dinner included a talk and slideshow from an expert on Sand Hill Cranes and a silent auction of items of interest to bird lovers. We were reminded of details we knew of cranes, and we learned more. For example there are 15 species worldwide, with 11 of them endangered. As for the Sand Hill Crane, theirs is the longest migration with up to 6,000 miles from Siberia to Mexico. There are 3 subspecies: the Greater at 5 feet tall, the Canadian, and the Lesser at 4 feet tall. The way to tell Lesser from Greater is the length of their bill in relation to their head which is 50-50 or 33-66, respectively. The difference in Canadian cranes is much more subtle, which I will leave to the experts. Then there are 3 groups which do not migrate at all, and these are found in Cuba, Florida and Mississippi.

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Loren and I also took a 6am Tour with another expert to see the cranes awaken and lift off from their roost to go to their feeding grounds. I took a photo through his telescope for a shadowy up close image of one crane’s neck and head at dawn. Our last tour was in the afternoon. We stopped at a few different viewing spots, and learned how the cranes’ daily pattern is to roost, feed, socialize, feed, and roost again. An interesting behavior is that they are makeup masters – using mud to stain their gray feathers to brown with mud using their bills. Theories abound as to why – as if for camouflage to insect repellent, but the feathers remain brown until the bird molts the following year. The tour included another chance to see a fly-in, however, our leaders had chosen a viewing spot that had no crane action at all. So, seeing a massive crane fly-in is still on my bucket list… 

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I also had a wonderful hike this week at Lake Chabot with a dear colleague and a friend of hers, where again I neglected to take a photo, while Loren was with his Mom. Then Loren and I saw them at the same restaurant where we had a nice dinner out with friends of Loren’s since elementary and high school with their wives and Loren’s godson, son of one of the friends. You can see we then went on for desert at the local ice cream parlor….

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We also had a lovely lunch gathering this week with friends from our UU congregation. One of them is an outstanding pianist, the other an outstanding artist and one of her newer designs from Colorado was enrapturing. 

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Loren and I spent the night in our van at a county park up in the East Bay foothills where the views by night and day were outstanding. It was interesting to see these views at the time we were listening to Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist on audio book in our car, hearing of “The Boy” – the protagonist’s – ventures into and around the desert by night and day…

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Then we took the next day to do more yard work at our house in San Jose. I was able to capture a couple of before pictures – can you make out Loren waving from above a jungle of wisteria? But I could not capture an after photo because we had run out of daylight as we were finishing up our work. I can attest that our work created a much more manicured look to the back yard trees and shrubs.

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Now we are packing up our bedroom, preparing to leave our AirBnB to spend time  visiting with family and friends in New York, Pennsylvania and New England over the upcoming three weeks.

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