In Big Valley (Modoc County CA), where Leonard and I live, winters are milder. Twenty years ago snow covered the ground several months of the year. One December the snow was so deep we were concerned our horses would simply step over the fences. Now there may be one or two snowfalls of several inches each winter, but nothing that remains on the ground more than a day or two. Winters definitely have not been as severe recently.
Yesterday, December 2nd, there were sandhill cranes ( Grus canadensis) in Ash Creek Wildlife Area across the road from our house. What a surprise! As I noted in a previous post, their 2011 October departure was the latest in my memory. In 2012 the sandhill cranes did return in February, the month we usually expect this harbinger of spring.
Sandhill cranes migrate to northern Mexico and southern Arizona, California and New Mexico during the winter. Others are weakly migratory spending the winter months in California’s Central Valley. Yet here they are in the high desert of northeastern California in December.
We read much about how weather patterns are changing, and with them the ranges and migratory patterns of birds. Sighting sandhill cranes in December in Big Valley for the first time in thirty years makes me wonder if these magnificent birds are adapting to the milder weather in our area.