Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Family Unit!

One of the things I look for in filling up my time at "Ketelsen East" is to watch for sandhill cranes. Particularly since we fell in love with watching them overwinter down at the Whitewater Draw wetlands in southeastern AZ, we kept an eye out on the nesting pair we discovered about a mile from our house here in Illinois! The highlight last year was when I drove through the neighborhood where they hang out and I was able to shoot them through the open window of my car with a telephoto lens - getting the ultra-closeup at left!

So it was with some concern that a search of the usual haunts in the area where I would routinely see these cranes during my month here in April turned up nothing! Finally I asked some birders that I ran into on a walk and they indicated there was a nesting pair at another nearby body of water, so I held on to some hope they were still here.

Then on this trip, I startled an adult crane while on my bike ride, so I kept an eye peeled for them again. Finally about 10 days ago, near the above site where I photographed them in a neighbor's back yard, I spotted them across the small body of water. As is usual, a human on foot gets their attention right away and they paid close attention as I shot with my 300mm across the pool.

So this morning after my bike ride, I packed the 300mm lens and went out to the pond again intending to shoot them again. Coming over the rise where I could get a view of the water, no cranes. I pulled off the road for traffic behind me to pass and while debating what to do noticed they were almost right next to me under a tree - not 40 feet away! Lowering the window I started shooting with the 300mm and got some nice images of both adults and the youngster - again, them paying scant attention to me as long as I was in the car! This may be the closest I've been to a youngster and you can see that it hasn't developed any of the red coloration on its forehead.  It is tough to tell if this is the same family unit that was here last year - will have to do some comparisons of the close-ups to see if I can tell!

And what I can now say honestly is the closest shot I've ever gotten of a sandhill crane, I present the following macro photos of a crane feather I found on my first outing to photograph them above! I found a couple adjacent to the tree where they were standing today and they both share the brown/tan coloration of the cranes. The larger of the two is over a foot long, so can't imagine any other bird species it would be from. The two are from the larger feather, from the tip at left, to the quill end at right showing the branching from the feather barbs. These are both focus stacks of several exposures to extend the depth of focus.

I'm glad I located my crane buddies and will have to keep a closer eye out for them during my time here!

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