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Flocks of Sandhill cranes kettling above Faro and Pelly Crossing, Yukon


Version française de ce texte.

Bonjour! As promised in May 10’s blog post, here are two short videos of flocks of Sandhill Cranes kettling over the towns of Faro and Pelly Crossing. The term “kettling” refers to the birds using thermals (column of rising air) as their elevator to gain altitude.

Sandhill Cranes flying overhead

The first extract was filmed on May 6 around 9PM as we approached the community of Faro (“Yukon’s best kept secret” as shown on the town’s welcome sign. It is not a lie!). It was my very first contact with sandhill cranes as well as the first time I observed birds turn and crisscross to benefit from the thermals. What an unbelievable sight for our eyes and what a concert for our ears! Each year, in early May approximately 250,000 cranes fly over Faro. So glad, we got to see a few thousands of them!

The cranes are rather noisy. You definitely can hear them coming from afar! Often their calls alerted us to their presence and made us to stop whatever we were doing to watch them fly by.

For some, the crane’s call reminds them of the French-style “r” rolled in the throat. What do you think?

The second clip was filmed on May 8, 2011 around 8PM as we approached the community of Pelly Crossing. Both Faro and Pelly Crossing are located right in the Tintina Trench, the migration corridor for several species of birds, including cranes, of course! In this second extract, notice how the different flocks crisscross the open skies.

Cranes have a wingspan of 2m to 2.5m at maturity. Their plumage ranges from gray to ochre, depending on time of year and population. Their forehead is red and cheeks are white. In flight, the neck remains stretched out. Like hawks and eagles, cranes can soar. They can remain in the air for several hours, flapping their wings from time to time thus saving precious energy.

To give you a better idea of what a crane looks like, here is a photograph of a sandhill crane in flight taken by Quebec photographer Daniel Dupont.

A few days ago, I had the great pleasure of attending a photography workshop given by Daniel. He threw out the idea of participating in one of the workshops he offers in the South-West USA during the winter. This is the sandhill cranes’ winter grounds and they can make up groups of more than 35,000 heads! It’s so tempting! Would be wonderful to have the possibility of observing the cranes up close.

Bye for now!

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