Sandhill cranes, their young colts, and the sanctuary wetlands were a favorite subject for me to photograph earlier this year. While there were many different species of birds transitioning through the area, my all-time favorite had to be the sandhill cranes.
Each time, I would arrive before sunrise and watch the first emerging into the wetlands … both colts in tow, sticking close to both of their parents.Most days it continued to be a struggle for the young colts to get through the mucky muddy waters, but gosh darned, didn’t they just look so cute all wet and mucky? LOL
I have always gravitated towards textures, especially in an animals fur, so these colts made it fun to photograph them.Another feature of these birds that always fascinates me is the enormity of those feet that they possess! Often they get them tangled up in the roots and grasses along the landscape and they would topple over. No worries, they always would bounce back up and continue on.
Of course, their ability to just fall asleep anywhere and in any position was quite remarkable. By the way, this image also gives a great illustration of those feet!!Mom and dad would continue to forage for food, not just for themselves, but also for their young. Everyday they seemed to get better at accepting the food and improved the number of “dropsies”, as they continued to thrive.Now at the wetlands, there were more than just sandhill cranes who frequented or called the sanctuary home. Always flying around and quite vocal were the red-winged blackbirds. This guy was quite skilled in grabbing dragonflies on the go.The white pelicans would gather in the waters as well. Sometimes just a few … sometimes hundreds. Always fascinating to watch them depart, fly overhead, or come in for a landing.Perhaps though the most entertaining of all, and quite vocal as well, were the snowy egrets. Such boisterous birds, they always seemed ready and willing to start a confrontation with whatever happened to be nearby or looking at it. LOL. Never a dull moment! Such beautiful and graceful birds too.The black-necked stilts congregated here in pretty good numbers as well, though they never seemed to want to nest there. Such beautiful and dainty looking birds, I’m always fascinated by them.But of course, the real draw for me to this area was the sandhill cranes. Such amazing and patient parents these cranes are too. It’s like the endless buffet line of tasty morsels all being served up by the parents, who did their best to evenly distribute the “wealth” of food.Whenever the colts seemed satiated, they would tend to find each other and interact. I can only imagine what the conversation is about.In the midst of it all, one of them happens to notice that mom has laid down on the grass and off they run to join her. Of course, that means climbing into her wings for a nap. This little colt looks like its figuring out where the other colt went and if there was any space left for him.Finding a great spot to bury itself in, it begins its attempt.Success achieved by both of the colts and off to a nice warm and dry siesta they go. Funny how by just looking at this crane, you have no idea that there’s a baby or two settled into and underneath its wings.Being colts they are obviously curios about what’s going on around them, so they both take a peek to investigate. As you can see, as they’ve grown, there’s not a whole lot of room under there anymore.They settle in again, that is until mom decided siesta is over and she abruptly stands up. It’s quite fascinating to watch as they two colts come tumbling down.As they do they clumsily fall all over each other … and try not to get stepped on by moms long legs. I think that I heard one of them say “get off of me, bro” … j/k of course. 🙂More feeding ensues and this little colts set a huge worm! Funny too how once they get a good hold of it, they slurp it down like spaghetti. 🙂Much like photographing the burrowing owls, these colts have their own repertoire of silly antics and poses. I have to laugh at this one and secretly get upset at its flexibility. I think it’s doing some type of “colt yoga”. LOLYes the two colts have learned to get along and take turns with the delicacies being served up.They do however lose a bit of interest as mom does her version of an ostrich … boy, she really digs deep for those worms.One of the most beautiful sights (other than when they perform “the dance”) is when the adults begin to preen themselves.More interactions continue for these colts, as the younger one (almost always the instigator) issues a call to action!Soon its older sibling comes to its side and is greeted by the younger one grabbing onto its beak. Over time, they really learned to love and watch over each other. So very endearing to observe.Can you guess which one was a day older? It’s amazing to me to see the difference that just one day older makes.The last day that I visited with them, they sure had grown up and were roaming large areas of landscape and were difficult to find. As you can see, they still were developing their wings but were well on their way.What used to be colts that you could barely see in the grasses were now getting bigger and stronger and starting to do a lot of foraging on their own.Of course, they were still quite close. Not sure what ever happened to them, but I was quite thankful for spending the time that I did together with them. They were precious. Can’t wait until next year!Hope that everyone enjoyed the sandhill cranes as much as I did.
Next Up: Who wants some burrowing owls?
© 2016 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography