10th annual crane festival lands in the Yampa Valley | SteamboatToday.com

10th annual crane festival lands in the Yampa Valley

Sandhill cranes come in for a landing in a pasture just west of downtown Steamboat Springs. The 10th annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival will run through Sunday, with events in Steamboat, Hayden and Craig. (File photo/John F. Russell)

There is no better time than the present to see the greater Sandhill cranes in the Yampa Valley, so it’s fitting that the 10th annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival kicked off Thursday.

Events, such as guided crane viewings, workshops, speakers, bird walks and children’s activities, will happen at various locations in Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Craig throughout the entire weekend.

Hosted by the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, this event has been a staple in the valley for the past decade.

Coalition co-founder and board president Nancy Merrill said the festival is a time to celebrate the greater Sandhill crane species that populates a small area of Northwest Colorado. The species was endangered in the 1970s but has since been classified as a tier one species of concern in Colorado.

Aerial dancer Jade Peed entertains a large crowd in front of Bud Werner Memorial Library. The Spirit Wind Aerial Arts dancers performed as part of a past Yampa Valley Crane Festival. (File photo/John F. Russell)

“When you see a crane, you’re in touch with an ancient species,” Merrill said. “They are the oldest species of bird on earth. They dance, they communicate, they call, and they’re really fun to watch. It’s a way of connecting us with nature and the wild; we don’t want to lose that.”

The cranes, which gravitate to the Yampa Valley in part for the wetlands and large agricultural fields, come to gather and breed before they begin their migration.

“In the fall, they gather in large numbers, and they dance and bugle,” said Erin Gelling, the Crane Coalition’s program director. “They are a very noticeable and charismatic species. Now is a great time to view them in the Yampa Valley.”

Gelling will be one of the weekend’s speakers, giving a talk on what the organization learned after placing a camera in a crane’s nest to better learn about nesting biology and behaviors.

Pat Curran, a part-time resident of Steamboat Springs, checks out the displays set up outside Library Hall at the Bud Werner Memorial Library during a past crane festival. (File photo/John F. Russell)

Other speakers include Richard Beilfuss, president and CEO of the International Crane Foundation, who will deliver the keynote presentation; author Steve Burrows, who writes birder murder mysteries; and Arvind Panjabi, an avian conservation scientist for Bird Conservancy of the Rockies.

All speaking events will be held in the library, and in honor of the event’s 10th year, a commemorative poster will be given to one recipient at each speaker event.

Popular events like the bird walks and guided crane viewings will return along with a new event, the Tour de Cranes. Participants will take a bike tour of the Yampa River Core Trail, starting at Freshies Restaurant and ending at Snow Bowl Steamboat, stopping to look at crane art along the way.

In an effort to broaden the festival’s reach, events this year will also take place in Craig, including a showing of the documentary, “The Nature Makers.”

Children’s events will include a crane-themed story time at Bud Werner Memorial Library and a Nature’s Educators booth, which will be set up on the library lawn from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The booth will feature raptors and other native creatures.

The dinner picnic, a festival favorite with attendees, will take place at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Yampavian Ranch in Hayden and will include a boxed dinner, a presentation by Ted Floyd, editor of the American Birding Association’s Birding magazine, and a guided sunset crane viewing.

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