Friday, January 13, 2012

In search of Sandhill Cranes

Monday last week we were doing our (almost) daily walk when we heard a flock of Sandhill Cranes passing over. Sandhill Cranes are a big deal; we never saw them before recent years when conservation efforts began showing results. Now they aren't resident locally, but can infrequently be seen in migration. I didn't have my camera with me, of course, and even if I had I wouldn't have had the right lens on it. So every day thereafter I carried the camera, with long lens, on our walk. No cranes.

The weather forecast for Friday was excellent, but it was my wife's birthday. I told her we would do whatever she wanted that day. She thought she might like to go down to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge to see Sandhill Cranes. Who am I to argue with such an excellent choice?

A few other people had the same idea. It was our first time there, and we weren't quite prepared for how far away from the water was the viewing stand.

My longest lens is only 300 mm, and we were at pretty much the effective limit of that lens. I looked around at other photographers and suffered some serious lens-envy. But I reminded myself that I really don't do wildlife photography.

We find some cranes along the water's edge just as a lone bird glides past.
Landing gear down -

In mid-afternoon a flock comes in
Did someone say "dinner is served?"
There must be several hundred cranes in that field.

Someone said that earlier in the day they had seen an endangered Whooping Crane. We didn't get to see it, but we did see an adult Bald Eagle.
It's the bird with the white head perched in the tree on the point of land.

And we got to see immature Bald Eagles, as well. They didn't have the white heads yet.

Sure which I'd had a longer lens!


  1. Great, but somewhat distant, shots. The KY Fish & Wildlife people are on a drive to start a sandhill crane hunting season. I think it is a big mistake. In my mind, they are not game birds and once were nearly extinct. It is a very bad idea. Readers can e-mail the dept in Frankfort to complain about it.

  2. What a sight! We used to see them in WI but never in numbers like that. Lucky you!

  3. Occasionally, I'll see a bald eagle here in Oklahoma. They are so large and beautiful; it is amazing to see their shadows all of a sudden after being used to all the hawks flying about. What a great way to spend a birthday. Sounds like you married the right woman Jim. Your sky and water--so blue!

  4. We'd be seriously excited to see Sandhill Cranes in GB. We do get Common Cranes here. In fact there's a small breeding colony and, wonder of wonders, they appeared all by themselves without any help from conservationists. Thanks for taking me along on your visit.