Photo: Sandhill cranes return to California

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Our photo of the day reveals the epitome of grace in flight.

Every year the sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) descend upon California for their winter retreat (who can blame them?). And in particular, they return to Merced National Wildlife Refuge – where this gorgeous photo was taken by photographer Sam McMillan.

The refuge plays host to over 20,000 cranes each year, making it the largest wintering population of the birds along the Pacific Flyway. To add to the fun, some 60,000 arctic nesting geese and thousands of other visiting waterfowl, waterbirds and shorebirds call the refuge their winter home as well. Think: Crazy bird party!

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