Sure signs of spring in Wyoming: dusty wind, wet snowstorms and the arresting appearance of long-legged but elegant sandhill cranes in marshes and agricultural landscapes. 

John Campbell, a photographer and retired professor, captured the latter dancing in a field near Powell in late March. The graceful leaping and hopping is one of their hallmarks, along with an otherworldly, rattling call. 

“The cranes really are fun to watch and a joy to hear,” he wrote in an email to WyoFile. “They are such wonderfully comic birds.” 

Campbell has been counting sandhill cranes and other birds through Cornell University’s eBird program since 2016 when he retired from a career teaching science courses at Northwest College, he told WyoFile. 

Campbell looks for sandhill cranes during both their spring and fall migrations. Right now, the birds are trekking from the southern United States and Mexico to breeding grounds in Alaska, Canada and Siberia. 

At 3 to 4 feet tall and with wingspans up to 7 feet, the ancient species are a striking sight, especially when performing their ballet-like leaps. The dancing behavior is more evident in the spring, Campbell observes. 

“In the fall, they appear to remain here for a longer period of time. They have young of the year with them at that time and perhaps they are giving the young birds a rest,” Campbell wrote. “In the spring they are on their way to nesting grounds and must be in more of a hurry.”

Katie Klingsporn reports on outdoor recreation, public lands, education and general news for WyoFile. She’s been a journalist and editor covering the American West for 20 years. Her freelance work has...

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  1. This photo is magnificent, so graphic. Where can we see more if John Campbell’s photos of Sandhill cranes?