Thursday, November 26, 2020



“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them,
             is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”
              W. T. Purkiser  

 A crazy year, to be sure, but so much to be thankful for.  All the best to you and yours on this holiday, and, above all, be safe, however you celebrate this time of gratitude.



Thursday, November 19, 2020



Last week, I was out too early to catch most of the migrating cranes, but, as I was leaving, I saw a few who were flying in.   

It was amazing to watch them floating to the ground, their wings outstretched and their legs down and ready to land.  Such graceful creatures to watch.


 I was closer to the group this time so I got better images.  I could see that there were two families with juveniles.  One had a single colt and the other had two.


 When they were all assembled on the ground, I could see it wasn’t a large group.  I counted thirteen in all.  Nothing like the 400-500 reported on the Audubon alert.


 As I watched the group on the ground, I noticed two other groups in the air flying overhead.  I thought they were going to land, but they kept going.


 With other cranes in the air, the cranes on the ground became unsettled and took to the air.  It seemed like they took off in groups, family by family.


 It is so much fun, but quite the challenge to track these birds while in flight.  At least they are big enough to get a focus point on!


 It wasn’t long before the whole group was in the air, although I couldn’t get all thirteen at once.  I wondered why they’d broken off from the larger group in the first place.  Was it just a regular pit stop to catch a snack and relieve themselves?  Or were they stopping to give the young ones a rest?


 The cranes weren’t flying very high so I thought they might be joining the rest of the group at another field.  So after this picture, I drove on, trying to follow them to their next destination.  They outpaced me, however, as they flew over the fields to some unknown destination.  I knew my crane season was coming to an end.

Thursday, November 12, 2020



It was early afternoon when I headed out.  That was much earlier than usual, but I needed to un-glue myself from the television after the jubilant election results were finally announced.  Time for some fresh air and relaxation!  I’d gotten an Audubon alert that 400-500 Sandhill Cranes were clustered along the farm country road where I usually see them.

I approached the area, but it was too early in the day for the cranes I’d hoped to see.  I decided to explore a couple seasonal roads that I typically avoid because they are so isolated.


 The roads are often rutty, sandy, and muddy, which doesn’t bode well for a solo driver.  I decided today the conditions were right to check them out.  


 In one wooded area, I could see the ground was covered with red leaves.  My window was down and I could hear squirrels scampering among the crisp leaves.


 Birch trees were abundant too.  Many were old and fragile.  I often had to avoid downed limbs as I drove through the area.


 The seasonal road also had wetlands.  I’d seen great blue herons there several times.  Today, I watched the marsh grasses sway in the wind.


 But the cattails going to seed were especially interesting to see.  Their life cycle reminds me of that of frogs, each stage is distinct and nearly unrecognizable from the previous.


 Scattered throughout the area were several blinds.  I was surprised this was one so close to the road.  I imagine in a few days this area will be crawling with deer hunters.  Good to take my drive sooner than later.


As I exited the road, I passed this nearly hidden barn.  It reminded me of another seasonal road that is less remote and also has several barns.


 As I headed down this seasonal road, I could see it had a completely different flavor.  This road had wide open fields and a few people living along it, so they must have to pay for snowplowing in the winter.


 There were also two beautiful horse farms along the road.  I stopped to look at a couple horses grazing in the pasture.


 As I passed by the last barn and exited the seasonal road, I decided to swing by where I usually see cranes.  They were starting to fly in, but I’ll wait to tell that story next week.  😊




Thursday, November 5, 2020



When I was out shooting the last of the fall color, I noticed another yearly phenomenon was underway.  Sandhill Cranes were migrating to their winter grounds.


 I first saw them in a field where there were corn stalk remains, one of their favorite foods.  As I pulled over, they scattered to the back of the field.  I didn’t have a long lens with me, so I let them be and moved on. 


I returned a few days later with my long lens and saw only four cranes at that location.  There were two parents and two juveniles, or colts, as they are also known.


 Even though I was quite a distance away, the crane family was not happy with my presence and they took to the air almost immediately.  It’s fun, but always a challenge to photograph birds in flight.


 I moved down the road a bit and saw a flock of geese, probably involved in a southern migration too.   I noticed a lone crane at the edge of the geese.


 A few more cranes floated in and joined the geese.  I didn’t know if the two groups would mix and share the hillside.  There didn’t seem to be an overt fight going on, but I didn’t know if there were some kind of territorial messaging going on between the two breeds.


 More cranes arrived but they stayed just at the edge of the geese.  They appeared agitated and were fluttering wings and tail feathers.  There was a lot of vocalizing too.


 Finally, as if by some communal inner command, the cranes turned en masse to the south and marched away from the geese.  I moved on for the time being to see what other migrating critters I might see.


 Right away, I was in luck.  I saw two Trumpeter Swans, which are the largest waterfowl species native to North America.  I didn’t know if they were migrating because they’re sometimes found in the Great Lakes region in the summer, but more commonly in winter.  A bigger puzzle was why they were in a corn field when they typically feed in aquatic environments, consuming up to 20 pounds of food per day.


 On my way back to the crane migration grounds, I saw a group of deer feeding in a shaded area where I’ve seen them in the past.  While one kept an eye on me, they mostly went on eating while I watched.  I noticed they already had their deep brown winter camouflage coats.


 It was nearing dusk and I wanted to check out the cranes one more time.  I could see large numbers had congregated on a hillside at the edge of a cornfield, south of where the geese were.


 The cranes were unsettled, however, with lots of vocalizing and jumping around.  I wasn’t sure why this was happening, but I continued to watch.


 More cranes were coming in, which was probably creating some of the commotion.  I nervously watched them dodge the electrical wires with expertise.


 As I continued to watch in the waning light, many more cranes were leaving than were flying in.  I didn’t know what was going on.  While it’s not typical, I wondered if they were going to fly at night.  Did their interior barometers know snow was predicted for the next day?


 I watched them as long as I could in the sunset-streaked sky.  They were elegant with their legs outstretched behind them.


 The light was fading and I took one last picture of the beautiful scene.  I’d snapped nearly 400 pictures that afternoon, which will be a lot to go through for the 15-20 I choose for the blog.  It was worth it, though, to take a break from the Covid worries and election angst that have pervaded our lives lately.