As I was moving water at 5 Mile Ranch near Auburn this afternoon, I heard the distinctive sound of sandhill cranes passing overhead - on their way south for the winter. Scanning the cloudless sky, I finally matched the sound with the actual birds - two groups of them. I'd been looking in my weather diary lately, and I was expecting to see them soon.
Despite the hot weather, the migration of the cranes signals the onset of autumn. Even though the days are quite warm, the nights are cool - hinting of the even cooler weather to come. Once the cranes are flying, we feel like we can proceed with our fall work - sorting the ewes into breeding groups and turning in the rams. In many ways, the sheep year starts now - not on January 1. In about 5 months, we'll start seeing the first lambs (and we'll start looking for the sandhill cranes moving north again).