Sandhill Crane Viewing at Fruitgrower’s Mesa

By Holly Henriksen 2 years agoNo Comments

The first “Mike’s Hike” of 2019 is for the birds – Sand Hill Cranes, to be exact!

3/23 Saturday:  Trip lead by Mick and Betsy Johnson

Sandhill Crane Viewing – Fruitgrowers Reservoir near Eckert, CO

For Paonia Residents – Meet at WSCC office 3:00 pm. We will carpool to the City Market in Hotchkiss and meet those who are coming from other parts of the North Fork Valley. Meeting time will be 3:15 at City Market.

This is more of a viewing, instead of a hike. We’ll park on the north shore of Fruitgrowers Reservoir along the North Road for the best viewing spot. From the main parking area, we will walk less then a ¼ of a mile to the shore where we can try to walk along the shoreline. The ground may be muddy or swampy, so be prepared by bringing boots for those conditions, as well as a change of footwear for the drive home. On my last visit to this area, I did not see a single crane, but did see a Golden Eagle fly right by me and land in the nearest tree.

What to bring:  Binoculars, water, snacks and plenty of warm cloths and layers

Fruitgrowers Reservoir is located in a broad valley, known locally as Harts Basin, below the Grand Mesa. It is 10 miles northeast of the town of Delta.

The ground along the reservoir has sage and greasewood, cottonwoods, and willows and is surrounded by orchards and croplands. An extensive marsh occurs at the north end of the reservoir, while smaller marshes appear around it. Water to fill the reservoir comes from diversions on creeks coming down from the 10,000-foot Grand Mesa.

Twenty-six percent (26%) of the world’s population of Greater Sandhill Cranes stop at this site during their spring migration from central New Mexico.

This is area is managed by the Bureau of Reclamation. Potential threats include recreational development/overuse resulting from renewed motor boating and extensive trails. Disturbance of birds results from increased residential areas surrounding the site and increased recreational use of the site.  A conservation easement has been acquired downstream from the reservoir. The acquisition of additional conservation easements is being studied to provide a buffer zone around the reservoir. The Black Canyon Audubon Society helps the Bureau of Reclamation in managing the reservoir lands.

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