Since last March, many flights have been canceled due to the pandemic. The sand hill cranes in the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge are an exception.

MONTE VISTA, Colo – So many flights have been canceled since last March due to the pandemic. The sand hill cranes in the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge are an exception.

“Look at them – there are thousands of them,” said Barbara Fleming, a wildlife photographer from Colorado Springs, as she was taking some photos.

There are actually tens of thousands who descend into the San Luis Valley each year. Scott Miller, a biologist at the shelter, said there was a census of the larger sand hill cranes last year. He said about 25,000 people came through the valley from New Mexico to the Yellowstone region.

Fleming said the opportunity to photograph the cranes brought a sense of normalcy to a very strange 2020 and 2021.

“I feel like I can take a deep breath and relax,” said Fleming. “It gives me a sense of hope, and that’s exciting.”

The only thing not normal down at the hut is the fact that the 38 year old Monte Vista Crane Festival is not going live this year. Like most events, it will be virtual. The organizers said they are encouraging people to come down to see the cranes without the usual guides, but wear masks when they are unable to socially distance themselves.

‚ÄúColorado is amazing, I mean, most of us have been in isolation for a year or more, had to stay home and all we have to do is step out and drive a bit and we are in a magical wonderland. “Said Fleming. “It’s better than Disneyland.”

The Online Crane Festival, the oldest bird watching festival in the United States, takes place on March 12th and tickets can be purchased from the festival website.

The cranes typically reside in the San Luis Valley through late March or early April, and then migrate north to breed in the Yellowstone area.

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