In bird speak, staging refers to birds gathering together before migration. Staging sites include abundant, predictable food resources where birds prepare to migrate south for the winter.
I first saw evidence that staging was beginning when I saw this group of eight Sandhill Cranes mid-August.
Then last week I saw 30-some cranes grazing on a hillside, although I couldn’t get them all in one picture with my long lens.
I’ve also seen several small crane families throughout the Kingsley farm country where I often take pictures. Most have a juvenile getting ready for its first long migration flight.
Mainly though, I return to the fields near the four-corners-ponds where my favorite crane family lives. I love watching the juvenile as it continues to full growth.
Watching the youngster master quirky crane moves always delights me.
Sunday evening I caught them feeding at the edge of the cornfield. Right away the big male came out and began loudly bugling to protest my presence.
The female hung back, though, shyly remaining within the corn forest.
The juvenile stayed close to its mother also. I noticed how its feathers were becoming more gray as it aged. I didn’t stay long, wanting them to have adequate feeding time.
I drove around a while seeking other subjects and swung back by the crane field for one last look. I found them pecking away to bulk up for their long migration flight. I wonder if they know they’re my favorites.