Refuge Manager Authors Book

Sandhill cranes perform a mating dance.
Sandhill cranes perform a mating dance.
Photo: Manith Kainickara, Creative Commons

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manager Nick Stanley can claim several monikers: biologist, birder, father, project leader at Kern National Wildlife Refuge Complex in California’s Central Valley. Now he’s added a new one: book author.

Stanley’s first book, a children’s story called “Sandy’s First Flight,” was recently published by Amazon. The picture book, aimed at children ages 8-12, follows a sandhill crane on her first flight south from Alaska for the winter, accompanied by thousands of other cranes.  

“I think it may be a book that will help kids have a better understanding of waterbirds and wildlife,” says Stanley.  

What inspired Stanley to write the book? “Working on refuges,” he says.

“I have spent a lot of time watching wintering cranes and other migratory birds at Pixley National Wildlife Refuge,” part of the Kern Refuge Complex. Thousands of sandhills arrive there every winter from Alaska. In his first years at Pixley Refuge, he says, “I would spend a lot of time in the field observing and surveying cranes as they moved around the refuge. I think sandhills are really majestic — the way they call and dance around in the wetlands and other fields as they forage. It’s really cool to watch.” 

Like the birds he loves, his book morphed over time.   

“The book has been in the works for about three years,” he writes. “I started it on some napkins and scratch paper. It’s probably been rewritten and edited 100 times — LOL. I have a cousin (Marques Hunt) who is an illustrator, so I sent him the story, some pictures and we talked about concepts, and he used that to come up with the illustration for the book, which was awesome.”

Stanley is married and the father of two children, ages 19 and 13.

“This is my first book, so it was a learning lesson and a great journey to get it to this point. I look forward to writing more wildlife books for children so they will know what we are the keepers of,” he says.