David Moore was seated behind a long low table covered in a green cloth. Several small items rested before him. A tractor. Needle nosed pliers. Ballet slippers. A dinosaur figure. An unfilled red balloon.
“I bet you’re wondering what these have to do with cranes,” he said to a couple passing by the table.
Each item reflected a different aspect of life as a crane. The dinosaur was a nod to the millions of years cranes have survived as a species. Pliers and the balloon referred to the bird’s long beak and smooth head. And the tractor is a metaphor for the work by conservationists in crane habitats to keep them healthy.
Moore is an interpretive services manager for the California Department of Fish and Game. He and dozens of other educators and vendors set up shop in the exhibition room at the Sandhill Crane Festival on Wednesday.
Hundreds of birdwatchers brought their friends and families to Hutchins Street Square on Saturday to enjoy the 16th annual Sandhill Crane Festival.
Several talks and workshops were offered through the day, from a presentation of crane communication to instructions on how to take great photos of birds in flight.
Visitors also learned about the conservation of California’s wetlands as habitat for the graceful birds.
The event was free to the public, save for some bus tours out to the crane’s habitat and a few workshops. The festival continues through Sunday.
Bird kites lined the walls of Kirst Hall within the Square. Artists showcased paintings and carvings of birds, mostly the crane.
Chester Wilcox, of Citrus Heights, was busily carving a redwing blackbird with a mini grinder meant for delicate dental work. The buzzing tool was ideal for outlining each tiny wing and detail of the bird coming to life under his hands.
There were over 30 carved birds that looked lifelike on the table for the Pacific Flyway Decoy Association. The group carves artistic versions of decoys used by hunters.
“Birds have always fascinated me,” said Wilcox. “My favorite carving is always the newest.”
Tyler Smeenk, 9, and sister Corey Smeenk, 6, were exploring the exhibition hall with their mother Kiana Smeenk, before taking in the Wild Things presentation in the early afternoon.
Tyler Smeenk was eager to check out the snakes and birds he was certain were waiting for him in the presentation.
“If you learn about them, you can learn to protect them, and what to do if you find them in the wild,’ he said.
Kelli Moulden, of Cameron Park, was browsing a display of handpainted bird images just after exiting a talk on sandhill crane behavior by Paul Tebbell of the Audobon Society.
She is working on a new non profit organization called Hawks, Honkers and Hoots to educate residents about the relationship between raptors and waterfowl in the Central Valley.
“I’m here to continue to learn, and to build my knowledge of the cranes,” she said.
Back on Moore’s table, there also lay a small pair of pink ballet slippers.
The slippers represented the elaborate mating and territorial dances cranes perform.
“They make movements we can’t quite determine the reason for. I love that,” he said. “They dance for sheer joy.”
The DFG was present to educate visitors on the cranes and make them aware of the efforts to maintain their habitats.
“Cranes are representative of our natural heritage. If we can get people interested in them, maybe they’ll look into the other creates in the ecosystem, too. It all ties together,” he said.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.