A dying wish of a Trapper Creek homesteader has preserved a rest stop for sandhill cranes migrating to and from Alaska.
Famed for their powerful calls, majestic flight and wacky mating dance, sandhill cranes migrate to Alaska each spring and depart in late August or early September.
Along the way, some would stop at an 80-acre Susitna Valley parcel owned by farmer Dale Saunders, attracted by his barley fields and wetlands.
Saunders, who was afflicted with Parkinson's disease, died in 2003. He willed his property to Great Land Trust in the hope that the cranes can continue to use it during their migrations. Birders do too.
"Each spring," said Rick Ernst, his Trapper Creek neighbor of 23 years, "the cranes saw Dale's fields as a great pit stop to fuel up for the continuing journey to their breeding grounds. They would hunt and peck for days at the grains and stalks left over from the previous fall's harvest.
"It seemed to be an obligatory stop for them on their spring migration north with many stopping again on their way back in the fall."
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