Spring creeps up on the Monument. There's no sudden thaw, no rush of life. One day you'll see a new shoot poking up. The next day there will be half a dozen. The hills turn green without you even noticing the change. Wildlife is much the same. One day, a returning duck, then two, then ten, then a thousand. Without you even being aware, suddenly you realize life is everywhere around you. The wildflowers come in waves, first the flox, then the balsamroots, then the lupines add to the show. Green is everywhere, highlighted with the yellows and purples and whites of the desert spring fashion show.
Great blue herons and American egrets return to their communal nesting colonies. Cliff swallows rebuild their colonial mud nests. Red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds send out a horrendous racket from the rushes and trees at rivers edge. Late spring sees does swimming out to islands in the river to have their fawns away from the reach of coyotes, also intent on providing for their young. But while many species are here for the summer, Hanford is also a rest stop for thousands heading on to breeding grounds in Alaska, northern Canada and even other countries of the Arctic Circle. Greater yellow-legs, snow geese and Caspian terns stop by to rest and feed. But the most conspicuous passerby is the Sandhill crane, which is on its ancestral migration from California's Central Valley to south-central Alaska. Everyone loves the cranes.