I’ve Become A Craniac!

From the first time that I laid eyes on sandhill cranes, congregating in masses at Creamers Field in Fairbanks, Alaska, I have had a total fascination with sandhill cranes.  There’s something about their uniqueness, their size, their grace in flight, their social nature, their calling out to each other, and their dance – like none other and such a gift to the viewer.

The sandhill crane pair that sings together .... stays together

The sandhill crane pair that sings together …. stays together

That being said, there’s one more thing that really makes me feel like a kid in the candy shop about sandhills cranes … that would be colts.  No, I’m not talking about ponies, but rather colts are the name given to the sandhill crane young ones – the babies, that is.

This year, I had the amazing opportunity to observe and photograph several different sandhill crane families from all over Florida.  Being from Broward County, it seems that we don’t get sandhill families in our area.  In fact, I joke about how they simply fly over Broward County from Palm Beach County to Miami Dade County.  That however doesn’t stop me from embarking on my quest for sandhills and their young.

Sandhill cranes in flight

Sandhill cranes in flight – why won’t they ever stop in Broward?

Sandhills make their nest in grassy marsh areas – usually in a mound of dead vegetation where they faithfully tend to the nest and the eggs until they hatch.  A clutch is generally 1-3 eggs, though sometimes they’re not all fertilized.  Gestation period usually is ~28-32 days, where the parents will take turns on the nest, though the male usually takes a primary role in defending the nest from predators.

Sandhill crane parent patiently sits on the nest

Sandhill crane parent patiently sits on the nest

Early on, the young colts, in an attempt to regulate their body temperature, spend some time sleeping under the protection and warmth of the parents wings.  It’s about one of the cutest sights you could ever want to witness.

The parent begins to stir and checks on it's young colt

The parent begins to stir and checks on it’s young colt

The first ever-so-slight image of the colt emerging from it's slumber

The first ever-so-slight image of the colt emerging from it’s slumber

The young colt awakens for its first glimpse of the morning - from the "original featherbed"  :-)

The young colt awakens for its first glimpse of the morning – from the “original featherbed” 🙂

Once the young are hatched, they are incredibly prepared to follow their parents around in their immediate area right from birth – I’m talking walking, eating, you name it.  The parents will usually teach the colt(s) how to search for food and how to eat within 24 hours.  They generally dine on worms, crickets, grasshoppers, or whatever they can get their hands on … or should I say, their beaks.  🙂

Solo colt out & about with one of its parents

Solo colt out & about with one of its parents

Dining on a juicy grub - Yum!

Dining on a juicy grub – Yum!

These colts can be so expressive - as this one looks down into the grasses .... doesn't he look so sad?

These colts can be so expressive – as this one looks down into the grasses …. doesn’t he look so sad?

When there’s only 1 colt, the colt tends to get more food and seems to grow bigger at a quicker pace.  The lone colt will also tend to be at the side of both parents more often than when there are 2 colts.

Always exploring - themselves and the world around them

Always exploring – themselves and the world around them

If the lone colt is so cute, can you imagine how cute 2 colts together are?!  That’s right, double the fun!  Not only do they do the same activities, but now there’s two and there’s also the adorable interaction between them.  Often, when there’s 2 colts, each parent will take one on their own little stroll, to be sure that they older one doesn’t bully and get all of the food or pick on the younger colt.  Generally, there’s also a size difference between the colts, so it’s easy to see how that might happen.

Twice as much fun with two sandhill crane colts!

Twice as much fun with two sandhill crane colts!

Tender parent and colt moment - we were hoping that we would get some under the wing action, but no  :-(

Tender parent and colt moment – we were hoping that we would get some under the wing action, but no 😦

But even though they might have the occasional squabble and competitiveness …

Competition over the cricket offered to the smaller colt

Head butting competition over the cricket offered to the smaller colt

One colt giving the other some smack about something

One colt giving the other some smack about something

… there’s equally moments of bonding that only siblings can relate too.

A special bond being formed between these sibling colts

A special bond being formed between these sibling colts

Yes, the colts spend long and tiring days with their parents as they practically grow up before our eyes.  There’s waking up …

Just about to wake up from its "colt nap"

Just about to wake up from its “colt nap”

walking around …

Exploring its own "private Idaho" of its surroundings

Exploring its own “private Idaho” of its surroundings

eating, eating, & more eating …

A fresh offering - leaving this young colt to wonder how they're going to manage this huge dinner

A fresh offering – leaving this young colt to wonder how they’re going to manage this huge dinner

then running, playing, & picking on the other …

Always a playmate within reach

Always a playmate within reach

bonding, stretching …

These colts will be together for at least 9 months before the parents leave them on their own

These colts will be together for at least 9 months before the parents leave them on their own

S-T-R-E-T-C-H .... it feel so good

S-T-R-E-T-C-H …. it feel so good

and finally crashing!

Can't take it anymore .... power nap .... colt-style ... but it lasts only a few short minutes

Can’t take it anymore …. power nap …. colt-style … but it lasts only a few short minutes

After a two minute break, it starts all over again.

Checking out where mommy & daddy went

Checking out where mommy & daddy went

Ready to do it all over again!

Ready to do it all over again!

Out for a stroll again

Out for a stroll again

I just LOVE these colts and I hope that you have enjoyed them as well.

I can't wait until I grow up - says the young colt

I can’t wait until I grow up – says the young colt

The End  🙂

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3 thoughts on “I’ve Become A Craniac!

  1. Aw!!!! I recognize some of those places and shots! You have some beautiful moments here. You’ve captured well the feeling of watching these tiny miracles. 🙂

  2. Amazing series of shots and information. The sandhill cranes are my favorite bird and you have captured them so well. Just absolutely beautiful.

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