Chasing Cranes!

It was December 1st, and I found myself on a very dreary and overcast afternoon, driving home from a few errands. In a pasture next to the highway, were maybe a dozen Sandhill Cranes. For once, they were closer to the road than normal, in a grassy pasture instead of tilled field of mud... a special photo opportunity. I get home, grab the zoom lens and camera and drive back over to the field. I was then on the same side of the road as this field, I drive a bit past and the slow down so I'm hidden by some roadside weeds on a small hill. These birds are to alert... I barely get the camera in position and the first ones take off in flight.

Soon, most of the remainder of the birds took flight. Watching them, I had an idea where they were going. A field that was still green, and is on the road that is just behind my house. Once I was over there, the birds stayed a long distance away from the road that goes back through the area. I drove over to the River Road to see what I could see. It was so dreary and the wind had gained a chilling bite. I needed to head home to start dinner soon.

Then, coming back towards the house, I saw a small group of Sandhills flying overhead, then another, and another... and I could see them coming in for a landing. I followed. Just on the edge of town, the backyard of one house ends right next to a corn field.


I estimate there are at least 100 birds in the above photo, and I'm going to venture a guess that there were over 200 Sandhill Cranes were in the field. They are glorious and graceful birds, until they are coming in for a landing. They drop their legs down and scoop their wings and float down... gently but not gracefully.

I love to watch them fly overhead, and to hear their calls.

I shot quite a few photos of the birds on the ground, as well as of the groups in flight, coming in to the field to join the others. To quote Sesame Street... "one of these is not like the other," can you spot the oddball in the next photograph?

Yes, that's a Canada Goose, right there in the middle. The goose circled around and landed right down in the field with the cranes.

If that had been my backyard, I could have been sitting on the edge of the yard, just before the birds flew in, and gotten some amazing profile shots. As it was, I stayed on the road, and didn't want to spook the cranes from what I was guessing was going to be where they stayed through the night.

This morning, driving to work, I saw at least 10 different flocks of birds flying along the Wisconsin River. I have to wonder how many more mornings will I be seeing them before they fly south for the winter.