VERNAL, Utah (ABC4) – With the weather cooling down and the seasons changing, there are a lot of opportunities to get out of the house and enjoy the sights and sounds nature has to offer. One activity Utahns can look forward to is seeing the unique Sandhill crane up close.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) will have two free viewing events for anyone interested in seeing and learning about the sandhill crane up close in the wild. The first viewing event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 1 from 7 to 9 a.m. Viewers will meet at the Jensen Nature Park at 8775 East 6000 South and then will drive to fields near the Green River in Jensen. 

The second viewing will be in the evening on Saturday, Oct. 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. Viewers will meet at the commuter parking lot at the intersection of Highway 40 and state Route 88 between Vernal and Roosevelt. The tour will head to the roosting grounds of the sandhill crane at Pelican Lake and the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge.

Sandhill cranes regularly flock to the Uintah Basin during migration. Standing at about four feet tall with a crimson crown and gray body, they are one of the largest migratory birds in the world, making them very easy to spot in the fields.

During the winter months, the cranes will flock to fields, pastures, grasslands, and wetlands before returning to roost along riverbanks and shallow lakes at night. They perform unique dancing and courtship rituals and choose mates that perform the best. The parents will typically lay two eggs in the spring and spend the first winter together with their children before separating in the following spring.

“Changes in the weather patterns may mean a significant increase in the number of birds that become permanent residents of the area, especially in the winter months,” said DWR Northeastern Region Outreach Manager Tonya Kieffer-Selby said. 

Anyone interested in attending the sandhill crane viewing events is encouraged to bring binoculars and spotting scopes, though DWR will have a limited number to use for free. Viewers should also bring drinks, water, and snacks as well as their own vehicle to drive. DWR also recommends bringing a telephoto lens for cameras if viewers want to get high-quality photos. 

To register for the event and to get more information, you can visit the event page on Eventbrite.