Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Valley of the Cranes. Monte Vista, Colorado

Sunrise over Colorado's San Luis Valley photo:nell
Nell and I headed down the Monte Vista, Colorado with River and the Brown Dog last weekend so she could study the Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis). These birds migrate through Colorado every year in March with numbers estimated at 25,000. Incredible birds with up to 7foot wingspans and weighing in at nearly 12 pounds these things fly like refueling tankers (C-17’s), very deliberate and controlled, even in gusty winds. It was amazing to learn from Nell about this species. Her going back to school has stoked the fire for her ornithology. So we took off, she’d take the pictures and I’d man the parabolic microphone to record the sounds in an attempt to capture the wonder of this migration.

The first real recording with the Homemade Parabolic mic. photo:nell

We visited the cranes at the Monte Vista wildlife refuge. This area was perfect for sound recording as there are a couple trails that get you a little closer to the birds and it is located away from the roads. The parabolic microphone and recording gear got its first actual use this trip. I even had a high wind day to test the windscreen(dead kitten) on day one. That recording was well trumped by day two’s morning recording of the cranes with no wind or highway noise. Nell and I have tried to count the number of different calls in the 2:50 min recording. There is at least 5 different species that I can make out.
Over all I think the parabolic preformed as expected. No real issues except for user jitters and movements that can be heard with the mic.

Users note: I had to hold the parabolic at the perfect levels for recording, sometimes way over my head, above reeds and cattails. I found that when the mic was well above the ground, pointed away from the road, holding still I got the best recordings.

Nell shows me her favorite shot from the day in the Skamper.
She read from her bird books, we had margaritas and she teased me that I should dance like the Cranes do.

Sandhill Cranes in flight, dig the 7 foot wing span. photo:nell

The Rig in the San Luis Valley photo:nell

Brown, River, Jasper, Linus. The guys waiting to hike. photo:nell
Our trip finished with a trip to South Fork to visit our friends Mo&D. We got in a hike and a mountain bike ride. Nobody else out in South Fork! We didn’t really see anybody this weekend on the trails. It felt really good to get away from the crowds on the Front Range. Is Southern Colorado the perfect place or what?

Also: I saw the largest mountain loin scat to date on our ride. BIG cats in the area!

Also, also: Brown Dog got worked by what we assumed was barbed wire on our hike day two. He pulled in (at full speed) with three major lacerations on his chest and legs. What the?!
So much garbage left in these hills from the cattle ranchers it tends to complicate things. Good thing DB's a fast learner.