While hiking down from Mount Edgecumbe today, I heard a very loud call coming from some distance off the trail. It was loud enough that I could hear it echoing, and it did not sound like anything I had heard before. As I considered whether or not I should leave the trail (Kruzof Island has extensive muskegs, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk having difficulty finding the trail again), I wondered what it could be that I was hearing. At first, the best I could come up with was some hunter making a strange call, though I did not know what the purpose might be.
As I walked a little further up the trail and the calls continued, I realized based on how quickly the direction changed with my movement, that the call must be coming from close by. It was too much to bear. Visibility was good enough that I could see Mt. Edgecumbe, so I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to stay reasonably oriented for getting back to the trail, and I headed off in the direction of the sound.
While making may way over, it crossed my mind that it could be a crane. Although they migrate through Southeast Alaska, it is unusual for them to be seen around Sitka. (One previous exception is a possible nesting pair that was seen a number of times over a couple of years on Kruzof.) As I came up a rise, I saw the very distinctive red and white head of a crane.
I was able to move a little bit closer to get a better look at the bird before it moved out of sight (the photo at the top was taken at this point).
I decided to try a more stealthy approach and stayed in the bottom of a little gully out of sight. I made my way down in the direction I heard it calling and then walked up only to find it quite a bit closer than I expected to get. It apparently didn’t care for this, and walked a few steps before taking off, calling as it went.
I made my way back to the trail and found out that some others who were hiking down had seen it fly. It went up hill some distance, but not so far that I could not hear it calling.
I am not sure what this crane was doing, but given how loud and frequent the calls were, it seems likely that it was looking for other cranes.
After seeing the crane, I realized that some large bird tracks I had seen along the trail were crane tracks. Given the number of tracks I saw and the apparent age of some of them, it seems likely that this and/or other cranes, have been around the area for at least a few days. I do not see any reason why the cranes would prefer the area near the trail, so I wonder how many tracks and stuff were elsewhere.
4 thoughts on “Sandhill Crane”
Thanks for sharing the photos, Matt! I have been using some of them in my classroom to teach Tlingit language. It is important for the students to know that the birds live right here, that is why they have Native names.
I came in contact with what appeared to be a nesting pair on the edgecumbe trail today. Very vocal and appeared very upset we were there . The two cranes followed us for almost a mile, walking parallel to the trail.
That’s really interesting – thanks for commenting here to let me know!
Since I wrote this post – I’ve heard from a handful of others who have seen/heard cranes along Mt. Edgecumbe trail, but I’ve never heard of them following people before.