Steamboat Springs Editor's note: The date of the “Cranes at High Altitude” talk has been corrected below.
The senior conservationist for the International Crane Foundation will be among the speakers coming to Routt County when the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition hosts the first Yampa Valley Crane Festival Sept. 16 to 19 in Steamboat Springs and Hayden.
George Archibald, who is a co-founder of the Crane Foundation in Baraboof, Wis., is expected to talk about “Cranes at High Altitude” during a keynote address Sept. 19 at Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library.
Hayden resident Nancy Merrill, one of the organizers of the festival, said the initiative earlier this year to establish a limited autumn hunting season for sandhill cranes in Northwest Colorado was the catalyst to act on an idea that has been gestating for a decade. The hunting proposal later was withdrawn.
“Our little ranch happens to be right in the middle of (migratory) staging areas for the cranes, and for years, we’ve been hosting a dinner for bird lovers to watch the cranes fly in at sunset,” Merrill said. “This dinner has expanded and we’ve talked about starting a crane festival, really for 10 years. Anytime there’s a threat to something you love, it motivates you even more.”
The crane festival will mix field trips to observe the cranes in the field and outreach to local school children with films, a schedule of expert speakers and photography presentations at Library Hall.
Cranes from Montana, Idaho and Wyoming stop in the Hayden area on their way to Monte Vista before spreading out into Arizona, New Mexico and northern Mexico for winter, Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife avian research team leader Jim Gammonley told a Steamboat audience in April.
The area of West Routt County near the Carpenter Ranch and Morgan Bottom east of Hayden has become a stopover for the cranes on their southern migration. The omnivorous cranes gain additional calories before resuming their trip by feasting on kernels of grain left in the fields after harvesting.
Other notable speakers during the upcoming festival include ecologist Ken Strom, the deputy director of Audubon Rockies. Strom will talk about the special bond between cranes and people across time, geography and cultures.
Robert Skorkowsky is the Rocky Mountain Region avian coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service. He will talk about the status and conservation of the greater sandhill crane in the Yampa Valley.
Merrill said she anticipates the inaugural crane festival will give people a greater understanding and appreciation for the statuesque cranes and their social behavior while demonstrating that bird watching and education can be a form of cultural tourism.
“We hope this (festival) will grow,” Merrill said. “In other communities, it’s a huge economic boon.”
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com