My first sighting of cranes this fall — Sandhills, I’m told — flying south over Placitas, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.
They were way above me, looking straight up from the backyard at just over 6,000 feet. I think they were climbing in elevation to make it over the Sandias, just over 10,000 feet at the highest point. These birds looked like they chose a route about 1,000 feet lower, at the limestone rims above Tunnel Springs and Ojo del Orno. That’s a little farther east than I usually see them. They spiraled upward once they got close to the north side of the mountain, probably catching a thermal to carry them up and over and on south, experts have told me.
It was fairly early in the afternoon — just before 2 p.m. — but I wondered if dinner plans were for Valle de Oro in the South Valley and short of Bosque del Apache, 118 miles south of here. Maybe Corrales, just a little south on the other side of the Rio Grande. I don’t know. I also don’t know if all still overnight at Jemez dam or whether those who visit Corrales and other spots on the west side of the river fly down the west side to get there.
My next door neighbor, a professional photographer, alerted me by text to the birds overhead. I always appreciate the heads up, especially since I miss my first Placitas dog, Sadie, elow, a half-St. Bernard who always was the first to hear or see them in the fall. I would find them when I saw her looking skyward.
My current pal, Cowboy, keeps close track of what he thinks is his airspace but seems concerned only about low-flying ravens, Ospreys and Blackhawks from Kirtland and, most offensive of all, whiptail lizards looking down at him from the rooftop canales. Occasionally he will object to jets at 30,000 feet, or whatever elevation they fly over Albuquerque, particularly if it is night and he can see blinking lights on the wings. His senses are extraordinary but he registers no objection to the more ethereal cranes.
Invariably my photos of the cranes are always pretty squirrelly since I have scrambled or fumbled for a camera and aimed almost blindly into the sky. The photos above were taken with my trusty little Canon Powershot with a zoom lense, which is 100 percent more likely to save the day than my non-existent photographic skills. I can’t wait to see photos from my professional neighbor, who I was proud but not surprised to see out in the stiff, chill wind despite a bad knee.
Trusting in the light tred of those who look at this web site, I will confide, though it’s always fun to spot cranes over Placitas, that my favorite place to see them might be from Tsankawi, the little Bandelier adjunct near White Rock, where you can observe the Rio Grande flyway from a sun-warmed cliff outcrop overlooking the river.