Each September, more than 10,000 sandhill cranes descend upon the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta where they spend five months roosting and foraging in a protected wetlands area just west of Lodi.
During their stay at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve and surrounding areas, the birds captivate onlookers with expressive song and unique social behavior, including a “dance” thought to be connected with courtship and bonding.
Registration is now open for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Sandhill Crane Wetland Tour, which offers guided tours of sandhill cranes in their fall-winter habitat. Guided tours, which begin Oct. 5, are offered mid-to-late afternoon during the first three weekends of each month from October through February.
“The sandhill cranes’ fly-in around sundown can be nothing short of spectacular. It’s a very worthwhile tour,” said CDFW Interpretive Services Supervisor David Moore.
Registration and additional information can be found at the CDFW Bay Delta Region’s Sandhill Crane Wetland Tour page.
The Woodbridge Ecological Reserve is also accessible at any time for self-guided tours. A series of informative displays are located at the reserve’s southern unit at 11154 W. Woodbridge Road in Lodi. Reserve staff recommends that guests stay through sunset to witness the sights and sounds of groups of sandhills returning to their roosting spots for the evening.
Visitors who are age 16 or older must purchase a one-day Lands Pass or have a current hunting or fishing license in possession in order to access the reserve. Proceeds from Lands Pass purchases (which are less than $5) go toward wildlife conservation.
CDFW is also co-sponsor the Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival scheduled from Friday, Nov. 1 through Sunday, Nov. 3.