November 22, 2019

Celebrate the return of our Sandhill Cranes Dec. 14 – 15, 2019

As Sandhill Cranes begin to arrive on Galveston Island to roost and forage for the winter, the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council celebrates their return with Holiday with the Cranes, Dec. 14 – 15, 2019.

Holiday with the Cranes is an island experience like no other, offering nature enthusiasts a unique opportunity to spend a weekend observing and celebrating flocks of Sandhill Cranes that migrate through Galveston each winter. Newly expanded weekend activities will include indoor and outdoor nature programs and presentations including field trips to see other resident and wintering birds.

Sandhill Crane Taking Flight
Sandhill Crane Taking Flight, Photo credit Barbara Rabek

The impressive three-to-four-foot tall Sandhill Cranes, known for their size and the bright red cap atop their heads, started arriving in Galveston in late October and will depart late February through early March. Last December, over 200 cranes were counted on the island. There are 15 species of cranes around the world and only two are found in North America, the Whooping Crane, which is endangered, and the most abundant, Sandhill Crane.

Holiday with the Cranes provides opportunities for Gulf Coast winter birding, educational and entertaining learning, outdoor adventure, and nature photography. Events include:

Coffee & Cranes with Keanna Leonard

Back by popular demand, Keanna hails from central Nebraska, home to the largest gathering of Sandhill Cranes in the world. After breakfast and a lively presentation and discussion about “The Private Lives of the Sandhill Cranes”, we will embark on a self-driving tour to crane hotspots to see Sandhill Cranes as they forage and play. Viewing areas will be outfitted with spotting scopes, and local experts will be on hand to assist and answer questions. This event is offered on Saturday only.

East End Winter Coastal Birding

East End Winter Coastal Birding is an adventurous birding tour to a diverse habitat to see other wintering and resident birds. Offered both Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, the tour by bus will drive the loop roads and beach area around the East End Lagoon Nature Park and Preserve, East End Seawall Blvd., Boddecker Dr. and Apffel Park. Local avian experts will meet participants on site and guide this ride/easy walking adventure designed for birders of all skill levels.

Winter Birding

Winter Birding on the Isle’s West End, traveling by bus, local field trip leaders will show you all of the favorite West End hotspots including freshwater ponds, coastal marshes, bay waters and the beach. We’ll see Sandhill Crane, a number of species of ducks and hawks, White-tailed Kite; and we’ll get closer looks at sandpipers, gulls, terns and American Oystercatcher. The areas we visit also provide habitat for Piping, Snowy and Black-bellied Plovers, American Avocet, Long-billed Curlew and Marbled Godwit. This outing is offered both Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.

Dawn Patrol

Dawn Patrol is an early morning nature adventure that is truly a magical and unforgettable experience. With special access to this private preserve, Dr. Alice Anne O’Donell will lead our small group to a viewing tower that overlooks the marsh rookery, where in the past we have seen 100-200 Sandhill Cranes wake up and take flight. You’ll also have the opportunity to see Roseate Spoonbill, ibis, herons, ducks, grebes, rails, sparrows, cormorants, hawks, Osprey, and sandpipers along with the majestic Sandhill Cranes!

Visit for additional details on each event and to register. Registration prices vary based on event and occupancy is limited.

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