Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sandhill Crane Behavior - part 3

The photo below is another part or area of the Bosque del Apache. This marshy area was flooded before the festival began. Many of the fields throughout the Bosque are flooded to create wetland habitat. The marshes also provide food and protection for many of the resident birds as well as for the migrating birds. The Bosque has a total of 35 managed units, and this is a photo of one of them, one of those units that is open to the public.
As mentioned in my previous post, we were in the "field" (or better said one of the fields) observing the behavior of the Sandhill cranes. While observing them and their behavior traits, we also were given a beautiful display by none other than flocks of Snow and Ross' geese.

You may want to enlarge this photo (below) to get a better view. Among all those beautiful snow/ross' geese there is a Northern Harrier. He/she is located on the far left of the picture. I'm not sure if the harrier was "chasing" the flock or if it was just "sharing" the sky, but I felt it made a very interesting picture.
Shortly afterwards, we saw this harrier in the field not far from where the cranes were feeding. This was the best shot I could get since the bird was quite a distance away from where we were standing. Click on the photo to enlarge it.
The rest of the afternoon we had free to ourselves; we didn't sign up for any tour or hike, so we had the chance to get out to the Bosque again after lunch and look around on our own. More in my next post.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sandhill Crane Behavior - part 2

Following our sunrise visit to the pond, we all climbed back into the vans and headed back to the Bosque for a nice warm breakfast, New Mexican style. While eating we also saw some film on the various behavior and communication styles of Sandhill cranes. Shortly afterwards we headed out to one of the cornfields on the Bosque, and we were to watch the cranes to see how they reacted to possible threats or how they communicated with each other. This was really fun, because we saw how the male and female were always together. While one would eat, the other would stand guard as the photo below indicates.
Notice in this next photo one of the cranes is standing guard while the other three are eating. If you can enlarge this photo (by clicking on it), you will also notice the same behavior in the cranes farther out in the field.
This crane is in a very alert stance, and notice the red coloring on the front part of his head. We were told that this is a featherless part of their heads. And when these birds feel threatened in any way the red coloring deepens and possibly gets larger. This is a part of the cranes' behavior that is still being studied. But the "experts" realize that their heads turn quite red when they feel threatened.
Here's another view as the crane turned toward us.
Here is another photo of a group eating corn in the field. Notice there are four standing alert out of the dozen or so we see here.
I couldn't resist to add a couple more photos here.

While in the field I also took other photos that were not of cranes which I'll share in my next post.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sandhill Crane Behavior class

Wednesday, Nov 18th was a class we chose to take that was all morning long (5:30 - 11:30 am). It started in the classroom at the Bosque del Apache, but quickly led to an area just north of the Bosque's property on the highway that leads to the refuge. The class was limited to 20 people who wanted to learn about the behavior of Sandhill cranes. We met in the classroom to meet the leaders who were going to show us what to look for. We were driven to the "pond" by vans around 6 am. And it was quite chilly and still dark at that hour. I dressed in layers, but I still didn't have enough to keep myself warm. Hot coffee and hot cocoa were served at the end of one of the vans. And that helped a little. Nevertheless, the desire to see the cranes in such close proximity and to learn about their various forms of behavior was well worth being cold. Our leaders were Paul Tebbel, the former director of Audubon's Rowe Sanctuary on the Platte River (Nebraska); Keanna Leonard, the present director of the Rowe Sanctuary; and Robert Kruidenier, who has served as a full-time volunteer for the past 15 years at the Bosque del Apache, another very knowledgeable person when it comes to Sandhill cranes.

The following photos were all taken just before sunrise, around 6:45 a.m. The birds were aware of all the human gawkers, but did not feel threatened in any way. This first photo shows how the birds are still hunkered down, pretty much beginning to wake up and get ready for the day.
This second photo shows how the cranes are now spreading out a bit and wandering towards the field ready to eat a few bits of grain before taking off to a drier field with more grain available.
This group of cranes would be a family, possibly dad (with the red head), mom, and two youngsters. Since cranes usually have only one chick per year, it is possible to have two that will survive. Or another possibility is that one of the "youngsters" is a year older than the other. Sandhill cranes are very family oriented.
And although it's not a really clear photo, this is a shot of a family or two in flight, heading for the corn fields for the day. As you can probably tell by the color of the sky, this was just about the time when the sun was about to rise over the horizon.
Next post will be more on this morning long event of Sandhill Crane Behavior, but we will go to the corn fields next after a nice warm breakfast back at the Bosque.


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