Birds and Blooms travel blog

Prairie dog town - no prairie dogs

Munitions bunkers covered with sod to help absorb explosions in case of...

Cranes as far as the eye can see - alas, no Whooping...

Picking the fields clean

Putting on his dance moves

So many cranes!

Coming in to land, they look a little like parachutes

They were fun to watch

Another unique place to eat

It was an antique store ...

... and a cafe

Castle Rock, CO Today’s tour focused on the rainwater basin. Our first goal was to see a prairie dog town. We saw an apparent town but, since it was cloudy and cold, not a rodent was in sight. Totally unfazed, our guide assured us the prairie dogs were really there and if we ever came back we would be able to see them. From there our guide took us through the now defunct Naval Ammunition Depot, the largest US WWII munitions plant operating from 1942 to 1946. It produced over 40% of the U.S. Navy's munitions. Built on 49,000 acres, it had over 2000 buildings, bunkers, and various other structures. Naturally, there were a few accidents. The largest explosion occurred at 9:15 a.m. on September 15, 1944, when the south transfer depot of the railroad line blew up, leaving a crater 550’ long, 220’ wide, and 50’ deep. Reportedly, 9 servicemen were killed and 53 injured. The blast was felt as far away as Kansas and Iowa. We were travelling back roads in the hopes of spotting an endangered and elusive Whooping Crane in amongst the Sandhill Cranes. They are quite noticeable as they are pure white with black wing tips and have a 7’ wingspan. At least 3 have been spotted in the area. Alas, as was the case with the prairie dogs, none were to be found. We did, however, again see thousands of Lesser and Greater Cranes. We stopped several times to listen to them as they called to each other. Sandhill cranes have an interesting and distinctive call. Both males and females make a rattling "kar-r-r-r- o-o-o" sound. The call varies in length, strength and loudness depending on its intention. The loudest and most noticeable call is during the mating season which this is. Toward that end, the cranes also dance. Sometimes the dance involves wing flapping, bowing, jumps and simply playing around. They might also throw a stick or some plants into the air. We feel fortunate to have been able to view so many cranes as closely as we did. We were seeing so many cranes that Jim did not even try to count them.

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