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Volume 11, Issue 11
November 2013


The Nature of Cedar Mill
Look up to see the cranes!
By Lauretta Young

Sandhill Cranes against fall leaves, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. © 2013 by Jeff Young. See more of his photos at

In many cultures, cranes are associated with longevity and good fortune. These beliefs have led to a lovely tradition of “1000 cranes”—folding origami papers into crane shapes fastened together as a good luck charm for the newly married, or for any others needing best wishes. We are fortunate in our area to be able to see The Sandhill Crane, one of the world’s crane species, as they migrate from their nesting grounds north of us to their winter resting grounds in California and Mexico. It’s a truly magnificent bird, but you do have to make an effort to see these flocks.

The Sandhill Crane is a very large bird--- larger than our resident Great Blue Herons by a significant margin. In the fall when we are able to see them as they migrate through our area, they often stop at feeding areas for some weeks to restore their fuel stores before heading south again. We might then see them in huge flocks as they fly south or in even larger groups as they group together to feed. They particularly like huge fields of harvested grains, where they feed on the leftovers. They also eat other vegetation such as grasses, and occasionally are omnivorous—eating small rodents and insects.

One of the best places to view flocks on the ground are our national wildlife refuges. We have several in our area—from Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge in Washington County, to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington, and there are several more to our south such as Findley Refuge near Corvallis. All of these areas have either car loops or trails where birders are likely to see flocks of these birds in the hundreds to thousands as they feed and rest.

However it is quite common in Cedar Mill to have groups of hundreds flying overhead. They migrate both in the daytime and at night. If there is moonlight one might be able to see them at night, but of course most commonly one can only hear their distinctive loud rolling call at night. Their call is truly unique and carries up to two miles. Scientists have discovered that, due to the length of their trachea, they produce distinctive sound patterns in their calls, which other birds cannot replicate. In the day time one might see them flying low over our area—they look distinctly different than our other flocking large birds we see in the fall—the geese. Cranes have a much longer neck and are much larger than geese.

If you’re absorbed looking down at an electronic device, it is unlikely that you’ll notice  the passage of cranes overhead. We can all be distracted, even without any such devices, by our own busy minds. It is helpful to rest those minds just like we rest our bodies. An accessible way to shut off our “tornado “ or “monkey” minds is to focus on our direct experiences. What do we smell, hear, feel or see… this is incredibly restful to the brain and allows us to be more creative and find relief from constant worry and distraction. Try it—look up. Listen. Be open to what you experience. Go outside. Give your brain a rest. Experience the good fortune of seeing some cranes.

Lauretta Young MD is a retired psychiatrist who now teaches Integrative Medicine at OHSU and PSU Community health. She also has a private bird tour business where she takes all levels of birders on tours in Cedar Mill and beyond—her web site is Contact her to donate a tour to your charity or school auction.

Here is a link to learn more about cranes and hear their voice.



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Published monthly by Pioneer Marketing & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291
© 2013