Sandhill Cranes, Part 1

On Sunday, I got to do something I’ve been wanting to do for years–photograph the Sandhill Crane migration. Someday, I’d like to go to the Platte River in Nebraska to see the spring migration, but that’s a bigger trip than I would find easy in the spring. So I was excited to learn years ago that you can see them during the fall migration in places like Crex Meadows in Wisconsin, and Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.

Even so, in order to see them, you need to get up early and be there at sunrise. I’m a morning person in general, but when I say that, I mean I like to wake up with the sun. Not before it. It’s enough of a downside that I’ve never quite brought myself to get up a few hours before dawn so I can see the cranes at sunrise. Until yesterday.

I set my alarm for four AM, and joined a tour at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. I’m still tired, but it was worth it. It will take a few sessions to go through all of the shots I took. I shot around 1,250 frames, and that’s a lot to sort through. So I’ll post as I process a batch. Here are the first ones of the morning.

It was beautiful out there…the sort of place I wish I lived:


Here they come:


For some reason, I was picturing the whole flock taking off around the same time. Instead, they leave in small groups:


Some of the first birds to leave came quite close. This pair circled around to fly overhead:


Things were pretty slow at first, so I amused myself with more shots of the fog:


Looks serene, doesn’t it? A peaceful morning…sort of. It was far from quiet, as there were three thousand cranes out there, and a good number of them were making noise. I’m pretty sure the biologist said that was because there was a group of us there. I’d like to go back alone sometime and keep a low profile. Just sit along the road where everyone was standing and stay still and quiet, to see what it’s like then.


About Amy Hunter

Amy Hunter is an avid gardener and occasional photographer.
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