Since mid-April, Sandhill Cranes have been returning to Homer from California’s Sacramento Valley, where they spend the winter. Their arrival is eagerly anticipated by local crane enthusiasts, many of whom get to know these birds in a special way.
The cranes come here to settle for the summer and raise their young. There are a number of documented crane families in the area, according to Nina Faust of Kachemak Crane Watch.
"I think these cranes, in many cases, have chosen the family they've lived with," said Faust.
Faust and Crane Watch co-founder Ed Bailey have tracked the family that has spent each summer on their Skyline Drive property since 2010. Faust even produced a movie about the family titled, “Raising Kid Colt”. She’s gotten very attached to her subjects.
"How could you not love a crane?" she asked. "They're so iconic. They're absolutely beautiful and stately. If you ever have a chance to be intimately acquainted with them as we have ... you can't help but admire their ability to take care of their family and ... their dedication to each other."
For the last 15 years Kachemak Crane Watch has been gathering statistics on the area’s group of lessor sand hill cranes that Faust says numbers about 200 and seems to be holding steady. Through what she calls citizen science, they track the movement and breeding activity of cranes from Anchor Point south to the head of Kachemak Bay. At the start of the season people are asked to phone in reports of crane sightings.
Faust and Bailey share much of the information they’ve gathered on their website, cranewatch.org. People are encouraged to report crane activities and sightings by calling 235-6262.