Friday, May 5, 2017

MIGRATION UNDERWAY


I joined the local Audubon Club so I could become more familiar with the bird habitats in the Traverse City area.  On my first outing with the club, we went to an area where a lot of migrating birds pass through.  Some are returning here to their summer breeding grounds, while others are just using the area as a rest stop on their way home.



As birders gathered around a marshy pond area with their binoculars, scopes, and recording notebooks, I was looking for what to  photograph.  I heard my subjects before I saw them.  Their bugling call was recognizable, but I was waiting for a clear sighting before I let my excitement get out of hand.



And sure enough, the serrated wing tips and outstretched necks confirmed that a flock of Sandhill Cranes was arriving.  It was perfect habitat for them because they favor agricultural fields.



The first bird I saw was alone.  In the crane's characteristic way, it made its way across the field using herky-jerky movements as it foraged for its next meal.



Then I saw the first crane couple working side-by-side as they searched for food.  Sandhill Cranes are monogamous creatures, mating for life.  But this was one of the few pairs I saw this day.



In a field with corn stalks that hadn't yet been plowed under, I saw another singleton crane.  In fact, that's mostly what I saw this morning.  I wondered whether mates had been lost or harmed in the migration from warm winter environs.



The cranes are striking in their coloring, long-necked body, and thin gangly legs.  But my favorite part of their appearance is their red eyes.



On this morning, which began around 8 a.m., there was fog in the weather forecast.  Fortunately, it seemed a distance from where we were birding.  However, by the time an hour had passed, the fog had descended over the fields making photography nearly impossible.  Still, I felt like, with my time with the cranes that morning, I had a piece of the famous Nebraska Flyway, where 80% of the world's Sandhill Crane population converge to rest and refuel before the next leg of their journey to their summer homes.  I had to think, though, that "my" cranes had finally reached home.