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Land of a thousand cranes

In the fall, thousands of sandhill cranes embark on a winter migration from the cooling temperatures of the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Western Canada with the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in their sights. The birds are mostly greater sandhills, red-capped slender creatures 5 feet tall with a 7-foot wingspan. And they practice an interpretive art. “When they land, some of them will jump and flap their wings and dance around,” says Pat Patrick, head of the Chamber of Commerce in Lodi, Calif., “crane central” right about now. While you can scout out the birds any time over the next three months, the small delta town is sponsoring 58 events for bird-watchers, from newbies to old pros. From Friday through Sunday, you can drive or bus to nature preserves, open fields, grasslands -- even a winery -- to behold thousands of these, um, snow birds. And it’s not all about cranes: On some outings, guides will scout for bald eagles, golden eagles, kites and hawks. Tickets for the Crane Festival are $12 and tours are $10 to $20. To register or for more information, call (209) 367-7840 or go to www.lodichamber.com/cranefestival.html.


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