Once an important stop on trade routes, the Indian village of Khichan, was left mostly abandoned when its citizens left for the promise of better things in Delhi. The town only has a few families left to occupy the hundred year old buildings. Despite the small population of the quaint village located in the middle of a desert, it’s anything but empty when the seasons turn.

Every September, over 15,000 demoiselle cranes fly thousands of miles from Mongolia and Eurasia to spend the winter in Khichan. The migration is considered to be one of the most difficult journeys in the animal kingdom as their path intersects with the Himalayan mountains. Many cranes die from fatigue, hunger, or predators during their travels, but the end result is what keeps them coming back to Khichan.

Here, their guardians (the name given to local community members) care for the birds by tossing donated grains. By feeding the birds, local traders can better prevent the birds from ravaging nearby farmlands that are crucial to human life in Khichan.

Once the birds have finished eating, they enjoy a relaxing dip in nearby ponds where they can drink their hearts away and eat all the pebbles (which help cranes digest foods) they can find.

Accustomed to the presence of humans, these cranes have become a central part of India’s culture. Seeing as how past residents of Khichan were only able to see a mere 150 individuals annually, the influx in crane numbers makes residents happy. We hope this September brings just as many–if not more–cranes to the tiny village.