Celebrate the return of wintering Sandhill cranes this season during Holiday with the Cranes on Dec. 9 and 10. This winter weekend in historic Galveston is an open invitation to learn all there is to know about Sandhill cranes.

The Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council is sponsoring the event as part of its winter activities. Registration begins today and includes an exciting itinerary of events.

“During the Dawn Patrol, watch the cranes as they wake up, stretch their wings and begin their morning dance,” said Julie Ann Brown, executive director of the group. “It’s fascinating, and it’s a celebration of their return to the island.”

Holiday with the Cranes includes two full days of events with a special invitation to local Galveston residents, cruise ship visitors and other tourists. The weekend begins at 6:30 a.m. Dec. 9 with a Dawn Patrol, which includes breathtaking views of Sandhill cranes as they take flight.

Later that morning, from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Jim Stevenson leads Coffee and Cranes where he discusses all the particulars of crane behavior. The talk includes breakfast. Following the talk, a Crane Crawl features crane sites that the group has set up with spotting scopes and experts on hand to answer questions.

Participants get a map with four or five crane viewing sites designated. The self-driving tour can be visited in any order and at your own pace, Brown said. “It’s a lot of fun to get to go out and observe the cranes after having just learned about them in the presentation.”

On Saturday, the event also will include an exploration of the East End, with Winter Coastal Birding from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., where visitors explore the diverse habitats of East End Galveston.

Dec. 10 begins with a Dawn Patrol at 6:30 a.m. Later that morning, the group explores winter birding on the island’s West End from 9 a.m. to noon.

If you’ve never seen the regal Sandhill cranes, take some time to check out this opportunity to appreciate them. Their coloring appears gray to blue and even purple under certain lighting.

The cranes’ distinctive walk and peculiar dancing will delight you. They frequent wetlands. As they group together, they engage in distinctive social behavior. In addition to Sandhill cranes, visitors may see a variety of other marsh birds, such as Roseate spoonbills, ibises, herons, ducks and sandpipers.

Once you’ve heard the trumpeting of the Sandhill crane, you’ll never forget them. You’ll want to return to Galveston to see them again.

Make it a special holiday this season. Focus on the beauty of nature by celebrating the Sandhill crane. You’ll find that directing your attention to nature can be restorative and fun. For more information, see the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council website at galvestonnaturetourism.org or call 409-789-8125.

Holiday with the Cranes is presented by the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, a nonprofit volunteer organization that helps connect people with nature and outdoor adventures. The organization promotes the value of natural habitats and resources in the Galveston area.

Dale Taylor, a retired educator and journalist, lives in Galveston.

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