Wednesday, April 25, 2018


There probably isn't a critter I enjoy watching and photographing more than a Sandhill Crane.  Yet, I've recently learned that a Michigan House of Representatives resolution could put this population in danger.  HR 154 is a non-binding resolution urging seven politically-appointed members of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to open a recreational hunting season on our state's sandhill cranes. 

Can you imaging shooting sandhill cranes as game?  The thought truly sickens me.  For the past few months, concerned citizens have taken the time to attend monthly NRC meetings to advocate for no hunting of Michigan's sandhill cranes.

The next NRC business meeting will held May 10th at 1 pm at Kirkbride Hall in Building 50, Room 200 at the Commons.  Kirkbride Hall is at 700 Cottage View Drive in Traverse City. 

Following the official meeting, there will be time for public comment.  To speak before the NRC panel on behalf of sandhill cranes, it is mandatory to sign up in advance of the meeting by calling Cheryl Nelson at 517-284-6237 or by emailing her at by the Friday before the meeting.

Besides the pure ugliness of shooting these beautiful birds, the sandhill crane population is very sensitive.  Each mating pair usually produces only one surviving fledgling annually, so the population is very slow to recover from loss.  Also, it takes these young birds several years to reach breeding age, which again impairs replacement of the crane population.

So please, if you can't attend the meeting, take a moment to email the commission at and urge it to keep these birds protected. 

A couple weeks ago, I shared photographs of a pair of Sandhill Cranes doing their pair bonding dance.  It was a breathtaking experience. 

These last three images were of another experience I had a few years ago photographing the pair bonding dance at Cross Farms in Northport.  Unforgettable beauty.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


I heard on the news tonight that Traverse City is twenty-two inches above the norm in snowfall this winter.  I bet much of it fell the first two weeks of April.

Thursday, April 12, 2018


I’d headed out for an afternoon photo shoot, but my heart wasn’t in it.  Truth be told, I was sick of the snow and taking pictures of it.  I was fortunate, however, as good luck jerked me out of my bad attitude.

I was on the last leg of my journey, when I spied them.  A pair of Sandhill Cranes was standing with their backs to me in a field that had cornstalk remnants poking through the deep snow.  I noticed their hind feathers were rusty in color, indicating they’d been preening with mud stained with iron oxide. 

They turned and slowly began walking towards the south.  I noticed the great size differential between the male and female; they typically mate for life.  And then something magical began to happen.

The cranes moved close together and their feathers began to ruffle.  I’d seen this once before and knew they were beginning a pair bonding dance.

  Pair bonding is part of the courtship dancing skills that Sandhill Cranes go through.  The dancing facilitates strong committed pair bonds, but also allows them to assess the status of one another throughout their long lives, sometimes two decades or longer.    When I’d seen pair bonding at another time, the cranes weren’t this close.  I wondered if they were actually mating.

Then the birds started to dance more separately.  The female appeared more subdued while the male continued to fluff his feathers and move around.

He put on quite a show, extending his plumage in several directions.  What a magnificent dancer he was!  Cranes get lots of practice dancing.  While much of the dancing is related to courting, sometimes spontaneous dancing displays occur for no apparent reason.  Parents also educate their chicks in pair bonding, dancing with them for the entire first year of their lives.   

  Once the dance was over, both cranes stood there, opened their bills, and vocalized with their trumpeting call.  It was clear what their exuberance was about and it made me laugh out loud.


  The cranes next started an elaborate, contortionist preening.   Maybe they’d shaken loose feathers with their dancing and needed to get things back in order.  Preening is a regular part of bird health.


  The cranes finished their preening and walked off to the north.  After a while, they stopped.  The male was watchful while the female dug into the snow.  I don’t know if she was gathering food or putting together a nest.  Regardless, my time with the cranes had completely driven away my grumpiness.  Being out in nature can do that, you know.

Thursday, April 5, 2018


Just when spring was awakening the natural world, winter makes a cruel return and plans to stick around for another ten days.