The Lucky Getaway Weekend

Sometimes it’s nice to get away … to see something or do something different … and that’s how this weekend started.  We decided to venture up to northern Florida and meet up with my daughter and son-in-law.  Of course, I did my research before I left and knew that the sandhill cranes were migrating through in numbers and hoped that they would be keeping company with another less frequent, but much loved, visitor.

So off I went in search of the sandhill cranes and sure enough … there he was … Whooping crane #9-13.  At this time, he was a 21-month old male on migration from WI.  Whooping cranes, Grus Americana, are an icon for endangered species everywhere and one of only 2 cranes that call North America home.  As recently as the1940s, there were only ~15 in existence!  Their decline in numbers were a result of habitat loss and over-hunting.  In 1967, they were placed on the Endangered Species list and through the work of many, including Operation Migration, they are making progress!

20150214-DSC_9739

This guy made his 2nd trip down to Florida and was hanging out amongst his cousin sandhill cranes in Alachua County.

20150214-DSC_9748

Their diet consists of plants, seeds, grains, small fish, frogs, snakes, and insects.

20150214-DSC_9769

Operation Migration assists in the migratory process of the cranes first migration and the banding of them with transmitters to track their whereabouts.  Each crane adorns its own branding of “jewelry” which provide that identification.

20150215-DSC_9781

Probably my favorite image I got while visiting up there was this one.  Reminds me of “hanging out with the gang at the water cooler”.  🙂

20150215-DSC_9796

It’s quite remarkable how well they get along with the sandhill cranes.

20150215-DSC_9814

Most times that I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph whooping cranes, they have been from an incredibly far distance, with the Florida heat radiating in waves from the hot earth.  This sighting was different … so close I could have a conversation with it  (who knows … maybe I did … LOL).

20150215-DSC_9825 20150215-DSC_9818

Whooping cranes are the largest birds in North America and quite a bit bigger than their sandhill crane cousins.  They stand about 5′ tall, with a wingspan of greater than 7′, while the sandhills stand about 4′ tall.

20150216-DSC_9992

This was my buddy who I met while photographing the cranes.  He/she carried on quite a conversation of their own with me.  ~ MOOOOOO ~

After doing some chores up in the area, we set off for another favorite location of mine … Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, just outside of Gainesville.  Usually we head out, walk the trails, see many species of birds, some snakes, lots of alligators, and maybe get a peek at distant horses or a bison or two.

On this day though, out of seemingly nowhere, we encountered a lone bison who was determined to share the trail with us.  🙂

20150216-DSC_4779

Being how it was too late to back out, we decided to respectfully stay put and let him show us which direction he wanted to venture in.  Of course, I was at that point thankful that I was carrying the landscape lens, as this was no situation for a long lens.  In the image below, if Tom were to have tried to retreat, he would have gone into the alligator-infested waters (oh my!).  LOL.

20150216-DSC_4785

After being quite indecisive about where the bison wanted to go, it finally decided that it would pass us, but not before we alerted other unsuspecting hikers heading its way.  They were sure glad that we did too.

20150216-DSC_0019

Grazing along the way … we finally parted ways.

20150216-DSC_0047

At that point, we decided to leave before it decided to come back in our direction.  Tom, aka “eagle eyes” spotted a lovely Wilson’s snipe resting in the wetlands along the trail.  Gosh, they are so beautiful.

20150216-DSC_0085

As we approached the sinkhole, we also came across a wonderful tri-colored heron just beginning to come into its colors.  All in all, it was a great getaway weekend and well worth the trip.  It’s not often that you can spend the morning with whooping cranes and in the afternoon share the trail with a bison … in Florida!  🙂

20150216-DSC_0207

Note:  For anyone that might be wondering … Whooping crane #9-13 completed his return migration to the north on April 22 (appropriately Earth Day) … another successful migration!  Yay!

Stay tuned for more “time away from home” in Florida.

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

The Dance

As I have self-proclaimed on earlier posts, I’m a total CRANIAC!  I just absolutely adore sandhill cranes – from the baby colts to the full grown … they never cease to intrigue me and make me want to photograph them.  So you can imagine when Tom told me that he had just spotted a sandhill crane and its young out in the Beluga Lake Slough in Homer, Alaska.

With this adult feeding low in the grasses, I can see why Tom thought it was a colt

With this adult feeding low in the grasses, I can see why Tom thought it was a colt

Of course, I begged Tom to stop so that I could run out and take a peek for myself and hopefully capture an image or two.  He obliged and I ran out, but when I got there I noticed no colt, but in fact two fully grown cranes, probably mates.

_DSC3246

Even so, the scenery with them against the lush green grasses and the deep blue sky was enough for me to begin shooting.  Then, as some nearby joggers past by and I feared that they would scare away my crane subjects, something was beginning to happen …

_DSC3258

_DSC3274

They began to get excited to their surroundings and to each other.  See, sandhill cranes do this type of dance to and with each other, that simply expresses their closeness and affection towards each other and celebrates their union together.

_DSC3278

_DSC3273

From their calling out, to their posturing and presenting themselves to each other, they looked more like ballerinas of the tundra and they unfolded their story to me.  I struggled with whether I should continue to shoot images, or switch over to video, to capture best the experience … even thought about simply putting down my toys and simply watching them … well, dance.

_DSC3275

While watching and photographing (it won out over the video), I couldn’t help but hear the song “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack playing over and over in my mind.  What a beautiful moment it was and I can’t tell you how privileged I felt to be able to witness it.

_DSC3298

Every so often they would appear that the dance was over, but alas, they would re-unite in their passion to sing and dance together.

_DSC3264_DSC3266

Eventually though, they did ultimately fly off into the distance together, but not before they literally had me with tears in my eyes.  What a lucky couple they were and in a weird way, I envied what they were displaying.  I mean, isn’t that we all want?  🙂

_DSC3305

Poor Tom, when I returned had to figure out what happened to me and why I had tears in eyes and rolling down my face.  I shared with him what I saw and tried the best that I could to explain what it meant and how it moved me.   I think he understood … and I wished that he would have come out to see it too.  I wanted to get his attention to join me, but I didn’t want to risk missing the show.  🙂

_DSC3277

Homer has a lot more than sandhill cranes to offer.  Stay tuned for more from Homer, AK.

2012 Review: PART 7 – Back in the FLA

The remainder of 2012 was spent with family, friends, and of course, with nature – the ever-present beauty that surrounds us.

Parent killdeer with its newborn chick
Parent killdeer with its newborn chick
Crested caracara surveys its surroundings during a rain shower - Kenansville, FL
Crested caracara surveys its surroundings during a rain shower – Kenansville, FL
Wild horses of Paynes Prairie State Park, Gainesville, FL
Wild horses of Paynes Prairie State Park, Gainesville, FL
Fox squirrel at Joe Overstreet Landing
Fox squirrel at Joe Overstreet Landing
The sandhill crane pair that sings together .... stays together
The sandhill crane pair that sings together …. stays together
Juvenile bald eagle at Lake Marion, Kenansville, FL
Juvenile bald eagle at Lake Marion, Kenansville, FL
Lake Newnan, Alachua County, FL
Lake Newnan, Alachua County, FL
Great Blue Heron, Wakodahatchee Wetlands
Great Blue Heron, Wakodahatchee Wetlands
West Palm Beach night scene, FL
West Palm Beach night scene, FL
Barred owl pair perched in tree, Dinner Island Ranch WMA, FL
Barred owl pair perched in tree, Dinner Island Ranch WMA, FL
Northern harrier soaring, Green Cay Wetlands, FL
Northern harrier soaring, Green Cay Wetlands, FL

I want to be sure to thank those of you who shared our year’s experiences with us, somewhere along the way…. you know who you are.  It’s always good to see old friends, and of course, make new ones along the way.  Oh, and a special shout out to all who helped out immensely in Georgia – again, you know who you are!  Your friendship means the world to us!  One last person to thank for my 2012 – that’s a great BIG THANK YOU to my best friend, husband, adventure traveler, and sherpa – Tom.  Not sure what I would do without you.

Sherpa Tom
Sherpa Tom

So what’s on the burner for 2013?  Who knows really … but a sneak peek does involve another return trip to AK, visit with the kids in NY or wherever they land, and wherever else makes sense or my hearts tells me to go.  Life is an adventure that one must live to appreciate.  My favorite saying, which guides me in my life and provides me with much inspiration is:  “Life in not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”.  Here’s to 2013 – BRING IT ON!

Hope that you’ve enjoyed a look back at my personal 2012.  I really welcome any and all comments and advice on this blog.  Here’s hoping I can keep this 2013 Resolution – a post a month or so (I give myself permission to “go with the flow”).  I wish you all a year full of life’s wonderful moments, great health, life-altering opportunities, and of course, adventure!  Life is only as good as the effort you put forth into it.

Take off from Beluga Lake, Homer, AK
Take off from Beluga Lake, Homer, AK
Thanks for hanging in as I looked back at 2012.  Now on to 2013!