Cranes Fly High Up in the Sky

The thermals above the town of Faro may account for the “tens of thousands” of sand hill cranes that fly above it each spring.

Or so Rose Fulton speculates. Fulton works for the town, and is the Faro Crane and Sheep Viewing Festival coordinator. She says she’d be the event coordinator, but there aren’t enough events to coordinate in the town per year to call herself that.

It’s April 23 today, and Fulton says there are reports coming in already — the cranes are in town. They come in when the water is free of ice — “When the cranes come, you know spring is here. “People get excited as soon as they can see them and hear them.”

A National Geographic page on the Internet says the call of the crane is “ethereal”. Fulton can’t describe the sound, and she can’t replicate it; she advises checking out a recording of the migrating birds on Youtube. In any case, Fulton says the indescribable sound heralds days of sun, “which feel great after a long winter.”

Lesser sand hill cranes, as the subspecies is properly called, winter in the southern United States. They like marshy, swampy, waterscapes. They wade with long legs, scavenging for grasses, bugs, and even snakes to eat. The birds fly together, thousands per flock, squawking ethereally as they catch warm thermals high in the sky. The birds barely flap their wings for hours at a time, which accounts for the longdistance wintering ground of the high Arctic, on the edge of Alaska, next to the ocean. The birds breed there. All of this information was found on the National Geographic page about sand hill cranes on the Internet.

Fulton says the cranes fill the sky above Faro for about three weeks each spring as they head north. During this time, she says there are “baby sheep dancin’ around on the clay cliff around town as well.”

Fulton’s referring to the Fannin lambs born around Faro this time of year. This explains the crane and sheep festival, which will be 12 years old this year.

About 70 to 100 visitors from around the Yukon and northern B.C. descend on the town of Faro for the weekend festival. This year it’s on May 1, 2 and 3. It features a welcome talk, which includes a history of the town, then there’s chili. That’s on Friday night.

On Saturday, experts will talk about cranes and sheep, and there will be guided viewing hikes. There will be a barbeque for dinner, and music.

There are events on Sunday, but they end at 11 a.m. Fulton says this is to give people a chance to get home for Sunday evening. For a detailed and accurate schedule of events, go the town of Faro’s Facebook page.

She says there aren’t many towns that have cranes flying over them while lambs are being born on the ground — “We may as well take advantage of it.”

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