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Lodi celebrates crane season with the Sandhill Crane Festival

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Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2013 5:54 pm

For some Lodians, the Sandhill Crane Festival is an annual tradition. For others, it’s a chance to try out nature photography. Still more visitors are young families eager to get their children interested in science, the environment and the outdoors.

But for the cranes, it’s just life.

The grounds of Hutchins Street Square were teeming on Saturday with festival-goers from Lodi and beyond. They lined up to get on tour buses, gathered for environmental workshops, and browsed Crete Hall, which was packed full of vendors, educators and artists.

Featured artist Lon Yarbrough gave a mixed media presentation, “The Necessity of Natural Encounter,” and his photographs were displayed in the art exhibit. Leslie Morrison won best of show with her photograph titled “Sandhill Promenade,” and Robert Lowe won first place with his photograph titled “Trio Preening.”

In the vendor hall, Jane Bowerman looked around with her husband, Ray Bowerman. He was eager to try his hand at nature photography, and the couple planned to drive out to the crane nesting area that evening for some pictures.

“We want to drive out ourselves, so there’s fewer people,” she said. “We’ve never seen the festival before.”

Jay Bell, a science specialist for the Lodi Unified School District, was thrilled to see a red-tailed hawk with luecism revealed on the patio outside Kirst Hall. The condition is similar to albinism, but the creature retained some pigment in his eyes, tail and beak. The rest of his thick feathers were a snowy white.

“You just don’t see them like that,” he said.

Bell was managing the Crane-ium Museum, where children could color, build a crane puppet and explore eggs and nests.

But among the most excited festival-goers were Markus Loscher and Kori Brand, both 10. The pair were eagerly discussing owl facts they had just learned while waiting to dissect owl pellets and look for mouse bones.

In their hands were a small collection of folded paper cranes. Brand liked watching artists carve blocks of wood into delicate owl shapes.

Earlier that day, the pair had walked in the Woodbridge Wilderness Area and saw deer, deer tracks, and river otters. And Friday night, they were able to watch the cranes fly in to roost.

“We came here yesterday, too,” Loscher said. “We’re not just sitting inside playing video games. Well, we might be inside, but we’re still learning a bunch of new stuff and meeting nice people.”

Contact Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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