Thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and ducks gather at Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, in Fairbanks in the fall to fuel up for the migration south.
Barley is planted at the former dairy to mature in time for the birds to feed on. The 2,000-acre refuge has 300 acres of fields, 150 of which are planted in barley to draw the waterfowl. The original dairy was started in 1905, and the refuge was later created in cooperation with the dairy family and the state of Alaska.
It is believed that the sandhill cranes are a subset that summers in the Tanana Valley. Transmitters placed on four cranes at the refugee have been tracked to western Texas. The cranes are part of the midcontinent group with around 600,000 members. The number of sandhill cranes peaks at the refugee in late August.