Every year, in late February, sandhill cranes stop near the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge to load up on fuel as they trek from south to north.
Thanks to a petroglyph in the area, it's believed the cranes have been coming to the San Luis Valley for as long as 2,000 years.
In March, Monte Vista hosts the Crane Festival. Visitors flock to see 20,000 or so sandhill cranes.
They cranes stay until late March or early April eating the grain that will support them as they fly 850 miles north to their summer breeding grounds at Grays Lake National Wildlife refuge in southeastern Idaho.
The San Luis Valley is a good place to see the courtship dance, where the birds leap and bow while raising and lowering their wings, and making a croaking sound to one another. Once a male and female bond they form a pair for life.
Learn more: http://www.cranefest.com/index.html
Photos from DJ Hannigan