Once again I'm back from the Sandhill Crane Festival in Lodi. It was an odd year, while we did seem some of the cranes, I didn't see too many species of birds. I suspect the warm, dry, windy conditions made the viewing poor. Though maybe it was the end of Daylight Savings Time (one of the great evils of the 21st Century).
Even with it not being too exciting in terms of birds, it was still a fun trip. Heritage Oaks Winery outside Lodi, has a very bird friendly vineyard and offered a wine and cheese tasting, and picnic lunch, after a stroll looking for birds. My favorite bird that we saw was the Yellow-Billed Magpie, and it would be tough to pick a favorite cheese or wine. A Lodi specialty cheese store (http://www.cheesecentrallodi.com/) got together with the vineyard to select cheeses that complimented the wines very well. And while there was sometimes some disagreement over which cheeses went best with a wine, we seemed to all be impressed by the quality of both.
On that “tour” we met Betty Finch a remarkable gourd artist, originally from Bakersfield, but now living here in Tehachapi. She had taken a gourd crane up to the festival art exhibit and then took part in some of the tours. If you went to the Kern County Fair a couple years ago, there was a very impressive display of some of her work.
In addition to her work, the Art Display at the festival had some beautiful photographs and paintings. And outside the art room, there were students to teach people how to fold origami cranes.
The only other tour I was able to go on this year was a boat cruise around the Delta area near Lodi. Again, there weren't too many birds to be seen, though there were great views of egrets and herons. These tours were on small boats (of course that's relative) which held about nine people per boat. Including the driver (pilot if you prefer) and a guide to help identify whatever was spotted. And on the boat with us was a couple that had come up from Rosamond.
And finally a spot of dinner at the Dancing Fox restaurant. They have developed a bread they call “crane bread” which uses most of the grains and seeds that the sandhill cranes are eating in the fields up there. It includes wheat, rye and barley and then poppy, pumpkin, and flax seeds. And is a terribly tasty bread that I'm working on trying to replicate. I'm not there yet, but perhaps during the next year I'll get close. But I got my annual sample to compare to.
So on that trip I had “a jug of wine, a loaf of bread” and time to spend with some folks that truly love nature. That was certainly paradise.