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Lesser Sandhill Cranes Arrive: Inspiration Ridge, Homer, Alaska

Updated: 2 days ago

Lesser Sandhill Cranes arrive in Homer, AK 2024
Lesser Sandhill Cranes arrive in Homer, AK 2024

Welcoming the Sandhill Cranes - Things To Do in Homer, Alaska

First heard in the sky above Homer on April 17, 2024, they've settled into their favorite places around town.

The Kachemak Crane Watch has officially begun!

  • Homer, Alaska, is an essential participant in the conservation efforts to protect the Lesser Sandhill Crane.

  • Conservation efforts for Lesser Sandhill Cranes include habitat protection initiatives by organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and the establishment of the Inspiration Ridge Preserve in Homer, Alaska, which is crucial for maintaining the species.

  • Educational outreach and eco-tourism opportunities like the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival increase public awareness and encourage conservation efforts for Lesser Sandhill Cranes while also contributing to a national database for tracking these birds.

Conservation Efforts for Lesser Sandhill Cranes

Despite their captivating beauty and fascinating behaviors, Lesser Sandhill Cranes face threats from habitat degradation, particularly in the Central Valley of California, where their foraging and loafing habitats are rapidly being converted. As a result, the bird has been designated as a Species of Special Concern in California.

Organizations like The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have addressed this challenge. TNC actively contributes to the conservation of Sandhill Cranes by maintaining water levels and controlling invasive species in the Platte River corridor, a critical habitat for these birds.

In addition to these initiatives, establishing areas like the Inspiration Ridge Preserve in Homer, Alaska, a summer breeding area for Lesser Sandhill Cranes, has played a crucial role in the preservation of habitats for these birds. 

Inspiration Ridge Preserve is a testament to the commitment and dedication of individuals like Nina Faust and Ed Bailey toward conserving these magnificent creatures.

The Creation of Inspiration Ridge Preserve

Nestled in the serene landscapes of Homer, Alaska, near the famous Homer Spit, lies the Inspiration Ridge Preserve, a conservation haven for wildlife. 

This Preserve was created by Nina Faust and Ed Bailey, who conserved this land to alleviate development pressure that would have otherwise cut off wildlife from their critical habitats.

Inspiration Ridge Preserve encompasses two wildlife corridors, connecting developed areas in downtown Homer to critical wildlife habitats and serving as a haven for many species, including the Lesser Sandhill Cranes.

Role of Wildlife Corridors

Protected wildlife corridors are crucial for the Lesser Sandhill Crane. These migratory bird species rely on specific routes between breeding and wintering habitats. Corridors pass through increasingly fragmented landscapes, ensuring access to essential stopover sites where cranes can rest and feed. 

As development encroaches on natural habitats, the availability of contiguous, undisturbed spaces becomes critical. Wildlife corridors help maintain genetic diversity within crane populations by facilitating movement and interaction among groups, enhancing resilience against environmental changes and disease.

These corridors also support broader biodiversity, preserving the ecological balance necessary for the cranes and many other species.

Nina Faust and Ed Bailey recognized this need and dedicated their efforts to preserving these corridors. Their extensive fieldwork and wildlife surveys along the entire Alaska Peninsula coastline helped shape the conservation boundaries of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, with Ed becoming the Refuge’s first staff biologist.

Their tireless efforts resulted in the creation of the Inspiration Ridge Preserve, contributing to the survival and prosperity of Lesser Sandhill Cranes in the region. 

Things to Do in Homer Alaska: Keeping an Eye on the Cranes

Nina Faust and Ed Bailey, the creators of Inspiration Ridge Preserve, also co-founded Kachemak Crane Watch

Kachemak Crane Watch involves the community in crane conservation through:

  • presentations

  • citizen science initiatives

  • emphasizing crane safety

  • habitat protection

This citizen science effort in Kachemak Bay contributes to a national database that helps track and understand Sandhill Cranes, fostering a deeper understanding of these birds among the community.

Publications like The Ridgeline, produced quarterly by the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, serve as platforms to educate and update the public on conservation issues, further promoting the conservation of these magnificent birds.

Eco-Tourism Opportunities

The magic of witnessing Lesser Sandhill Cranes in their natural habitat is a spectacle that attracts eco-tourists from around the globe. 

Every year in early May, the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival is held in Homer, Alaska, where the spring migration of Lesser Sandhill Cranes is a significant highlight, offering visitors a unique eco-tourism experience.

For a more immersive experience, Inspiration Ridge Preserve offers guided tours during the summer. Visitors can explore rolling trails, view the spectacular Kachemak Bay and Kenai Mountains, and discover wildlife, including Lesser Sandhill Cranes. 

The tours, ranging from one-and-a-half to three hours, provide an intimate interaction with nature that leaves a lasting impression on visitors.

Beyond organized events, places like the Beluga Slough Viewing Area also provide opportunities to see Lesser Sandhill Cranes in their natural habitat. 

These eco-tourism opportunities offer visitors unique experiences and raise awareness about the need to conserve these magnificent birds.

Educational Outreach

Educational outreach efforts are crucial in promoting awareness and stewardship of Lesser Sandhill Cranes. Organizations like the Kachemak Bay Birders educate the local community about the life and conservation of Sandhill Cranes, instilling a sense of responsibility and respect for conservation.

The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies offers programs and events designed to increase understanding and encourage stewardship of Lesser Sandhill Cranes among both adults and children. Some of these programs and events include:

  • Educational workshops

  • Guided tours

  • Birdwatching trips

  • Hands-on activities

Public awareness is further promoted by local radio programs that generate interest among residents about the habitats and behaviors of Sandhill Cranes.


In conclusion, the Lesser Sandhill Cranes are a unique subspecies of Sandhill Cranes that captivate bird enthusiasts with their distinctive characteristics and fascinating behaviors. 

Despite the threats they face due to habitat degradation, concerted efforts by individuals and organizations like The Nature Conservancy, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, and the Kachemak Crane Watch have contributed to their conservation. 

The creation of areas like the Inspiration Ridge Preserve in Homer, Alaska, has provided a haven for these birds, highlighting the significance of wildlife corridors in their survival. 

Through eco-tourism opportunities and educational outreach initiatives, awareness and stewardship of these magnificent creatures are promoted, ensuring their continued survival for future generations to admire and learn from.

Frequently Asked Questions

What conservation efforts focus on Lesser Sandhill Cranes?

Several organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy and the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, focus on habitat protection, invasive species control, and community engagement to conserve the Lesser Sandhill Cranes. These efforts aim to ensure the long-term survival of the species.

What is the Inspiration Ridge Preserve?

Inspiration Ridge Preserve, run by the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, is a conservation area in Homer, Alaska, established to safeguard wildlife corridors and critical habitats for various species like Lesser Sandhill Cranes.

How do wildlife corridors contribute to the survival of Lesser Sandhill Cranes?

Wildlife corridors contribute to the survival of Lesser Sandhill Cranes by providing safe passage during their migratory travels to breeding and wintering grounds. This ensures their freedom to move, which is essential for their survival.


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