Yampa Valley Crane Festival raises presence in Craig with film screening, guided tour
Birds of a feather flock together, and fans of a certain beloved regional avian will be spread out across Northwest Colorado in the coming week.
The 11th annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival gets flapping from Sept. 1-4 with a full schedule of events celebrating the sandhill cranes that are among the area’s notable wildlife.
Among the activities are guided tours to observe the majestic birds and other fauna, as well as educational opportunities for all ages such as lectures, art workshops and more.
While the majority of these events will be in Steamboat Springs and Hayden in Routt County, festival organizers also aim to bring attendees to Craig given Moffat County’s importance in providing the cranes’ habitat.
A free screening of “Cranes of the Rockies” will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31, at West Twin Cinema leading up to the festival’s official start, which will also feature additional cinematic shows.
“This documentary follows the migration of the cranes from their nesting areas in the greater Yellowstone Basin, to the vast San Luis Valley in South Central Colorado where they stage in the spring and the fall,” according to the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition.
“In the thousands, cranes filter into the valley where their courtship displays of dancing, hopping, and bowing can be seen. Winter brings the cranes to Bosque del Apache, where they wait for the long winter before heading back to their eternal nesting grounds to the north.”
The coalition is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the greater sandhill crane while also showcasing the many other birds of the area.
Coalition President Nancy Merrill said the group has sought to bring more of the crane festival offerings — which attract an array of local and out-of-town guests each year — to Craig and Moffat County.
“Obviously, the cranes are in Moffat County as well as Routt, so we’ve really tried to draw more participation from Craig,” Merrill said, pointing to Moffat County High School graduates who have won scholarships through the coalition, as well as a new poster contest this year won by Craig student Valarie Dilldine.
Merrill noted that in the future, the organization hopes to bring more speaking engagements to Craig to enhance the festival.
“The cranes are all throughout the Yampa Valley, so we want people from Craig to be involved with that,” she said.
As part of the festival’s numerous nature tours, Forrest Luke and Allan Reishus will host a guided bird walk at 8 a.m. Sunday at Loudy-Simpson Park, highlighting the site’s characteristics that make it beneficial to cranes.
“It’s such a great area for birds of all kinds, what we call a migrant trap,” Merrill said. “We hope people from all over Colorado will be able to see how wonderful it is in attracting so many species this time of year.”
Registration in advance is required for all bird walks. For a full list of Yampa Valley Crane Festival details, ColoradoCranes.org/Festival-Schedule/.
Many events are open and free, but registration will be required for the following events during the 11th annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival on Sept. 1-4 in Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Craig.
• Guided sunrise crane viewing shuttles. Crane experts will take the group to a place where cranes gather so that people can experience the cranes in their natural environment. Naturalists Sandra Noll and Erv Nichols will explain the behavior, physiology and family connections of cranes as the group watches them feed, socialize and dance in the fields.
• Scenic Excursion by Pontoon Boat. Enjoy a scenic tour by pontoon boat along the shores of beautiful Steamboat Lake. Although cranes may not be visible, plenty of other birds and wildlife should be. The tour will be led by Julie Arington of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
• Birds and Butterflies. Editor of Birding Magazine Ted Floyd and Andrew Floyd will lead a bird and butterfly walk at the Yampa River Botanic Park.
• Nature’s Educators Live Raptor Photo Shoot. Join Nature’s Educators and wildlife photographer Chris Becea for this unique opportunity to take photos of live raptors up close in their natural setting. This is open to photographers at all levels.
• Loudy-Simpson Bird Walk. There will be a guided bird walk at Loudy-Simpson Park in Craig led by local experts.
• Learning About Insects, Herps and Birds at Carpenter Ranch. This presentation will be led by Hannah and Ted Floyd, and participants will learn how to use iNaturalist and Seek by iNat app while learning about insects, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians and birds at the historic Carpenter Ranch near Hayden. This event is suitable for people of all ages, including families and children.
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