Sandhill Cranes in the City

It was a stellar weekend in Albuquerque.  I got a couple good rides in with friends, and then on Sunday afternoon Mai and I headed to the South Valley and the Valle de Oro wildlife refuge.  When the wintry weather arrives so do the Sandhill Cranes.  I’ve been seeing them for the last couple weeks on my bicycle rides when I’m near the river, but Mai hadn’t seen any this year.  We changed that Sunday at Valle de Oro.  Here’s one of her best shots from last year.


This urban wildlife refuge is part of an interagency transportation, land use, and climate change planning initiative.  And also is being managed by a new standards of excellence framework to model sustainability, connect the local community with nature, and engage people with the refuge as a community asset.  It is kind of a nucleus of innovation for evolving ideas about cities, sustainability and nature.  It makes connecting with nature easy.  It’s right here.

Valle de Oro cranes aloft

Valle de Oro cranes in sight

Valle de Oro cranes in flight

It was a magical evening.  The cranes are family birds and they mingle in the fields until sunset.  Then they fly back to the river for the night.  The voices of cranes carrying across the fields and echoing back from the flyway above the Bosque and water filled us up with all the talk we needed.  These are the sounds that place the seasons, that speak to our primordial senses.

Valle de Oro photographing cranes

Valle de Oro string of cranes

Valle de Oro the woods edge

It’s a unique city and embracing wildlife as a seamless part of our urban character gives us a fuller presence here.  Valle de Oro helps us realize the value of natural ecosystem services, such as the relief from impervious surfaces (like blacktop and concrete) these fields provide and the functions they fulfill, such as allowing storm water to slowly infiltrate the aquifer and riverine systems, while being naturally filtered on the way.  It helps us slow down, take stock and tune in to elemental processes.  We understand life in a reflective and broader context in places like this.  The graceful stroke of a feathery wing and a crane gliding through the sky is an inspiring sight.   The freshwater wetlands of the Río Grande teem with diverse life.

Standards of Excellence for Urban Wildlife Refuges, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Check out Valle de Oro on Facebook for announcements, pics, news, media, and events.
Friends of Valle de Oro They have a survey on the Paseo Del Bosque trail extension
Central New Mexico Climate Change Scenario Planning Project is an interagency initiative addressing regional land use and transportation planning, sustainability, climate change adaptation, greenhouse emissions mitigation, transit-oriented development, travel demand management, open space preservation, green infrastructure, stormwater management.

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