Thursday, January 02, 2014

Sandhill Cranes - Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge

The Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, located in the southwestern Texas Panhandle, is an area of vast grasslands interspersed with several salt lakes.  It is these lakes that host thousands of Sandhill Cranes every winter.  The cranes congregate in the middle of the shallow water bodies during the night, and then depart for surrounding farm fields to feast on grain during the day.  Though predators can easily be spotted while the birds congregate in the middle of the lakes, successful hunting by coyotes and bobcats is apparently common, as evident by numerous crane carcases scattered in the tall grass adjacent to the lakes.  Viewing angles of these birds are numerous, either from parking areas, or for those who chose to hike around the lakes.

Sandhill crane suffering from mycotoxin poisoning (thank to Bill Johnson [FWS] for educating me on the circumstances of this crane).
Thousands of Sandhill Cranes returning to Pauls Lake at sunset.