Saturday, May 2, 2015

Grace and Elegance

I was driving along a wetland area of the Bay when I spotted two Sandhill Cranes in the reeds.  They appeared to be preening themselves and I wasn't sure if they would come further out into the open. 

I assumed they were a pair since cranes mate for life.  They seemed to be making a slow stroll into the open and I looked forward to getting a clearer image of them.  I had my camera ready too.

Reaching open space, both cranes began to preen themselves.  I could see they were more rust-colored than the typical gray I'd seen before in cranes.  I checked my bird book and learned that during breeding, cranes' plumage can appear worn and stained, almost ochre in color.  Migrating sandhill cranes can be a rusty-orange too from being around iron-rich mud.

Shortly after coming into the open, one of the Sandhill Cranes lifted itself up and began to display its gigantic wingspan.  I immediately was reminded of the displaying male turkeys we are currently seeing all over Northport.  But, I've learned, both genders of cranes display during courtship vs. just the males.

This Sandhill Crane's wingspan was gigantic; I estimated it to be at least five or six feet in breadth.  What power those wings would bring for the long winter migrations to warmer climates!

I was amazed at all the various shapes the displaying Crane was showing me.

Meanwhile, the mate was putting on a show of its own, but one more of delicate balancing over the raw power shown by the other bird.  It was hard for me not to stereotype this bird as the female.  Its long neck was able to reach all parts of its body.

Finished with its first stunt, the crane bent over deeply, as if making a bow to the applause from its grateful admirers.  Its front toe was poised forward, like a dancer in ballet pointe shoes.

Then standing on just one leg, the Sandhill Crane moved on to its second feat, this time reaching tightly over its body, as if in a close-fitting yoga pose.

I was suddenly surprised when the dancing crane let out a loud trumpeting call, a signal to me that the show was over.  As the cranes continued their stroll along the beach, I pulled my camera back into the car, appreciative of another show from Northport's waterfowl.


  1. Beautiful series, Karen. I love the variety of poses. That wingspan is amazing! We are so lucky to be seeing these wonderful birds.

  2. Yes, we are lucky, Jan! It's such a treat after a long enough winter to see bird life returning. I wonder if they'll have little ones this spring. It will be fun to watch. Karen

  3. Your patience was rewarded, and we all reap the benefit. -- That sounds like something out of a fortune cookie, but I mean it. :)

  4. Your fortune cookie comment made me laugh! Not a lot of patience was needed because the cranes were putting on such an interesting show. I felt really lucky to have seen the performance.