Photos: Sandhill Cranes Spotted in Bluff

A few weeks ago, former Canyon Echo publisher Linda Richmond heard the call of a sandhill crane when she was outside the post office in Bluff. Sure enough, the birds — a rarity in the area — had returned. The cranes have continued to post up at the Davis Farm, where Debbie Westfall snapped the photos below:

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In the June 1995 issue of the Canyon Echo, Ellen Meloy wrote:

I knew this as the distinct voice (imagine a pterodactyl playing a kazoo) of a sandhill crane, and indeed cranes were here. Daily the pair flew over the benches in a circle of feeding and resting between Bluff and Sand Island. A leggy, gray-brown bird with a seven-foot wingspan and red crown, the sandhill crane is a rare species on the lower San Juan. From southwestern naturalist Stewart Aitchison I learned that crane sightings were uncommon before 1936. Birds of Navajo Country (1945) notes: “Sammy Day, Jr. told R. Jenks that in early Sept., about 1926, he saw cranes on one of the marl hills near Chin Lee [sic]” and “J.O. Brew reports bones of this species excavated from Awatovi ruins, which he dates between 1400 and 1600 A.D.” (Awatovi is in Hopi country.) A 1960 bird handbook for southeastern Utah, Aitchison informed me, mentions no cranes.

— Read the full Ellen Meloy essay: Geese, River Ghost, the Holy Ghost – a field report

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