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.


Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Beautiful.I rarely see these birds so they are a special treat.Thanks.

Erie's Argonaut said...

Wow, you are an early bird! Your post makes the Sandhill Crane very interesting. I didn't know they only had one chick per year and stayed in a family grouping. I bet your glad you took that class.

Ruth said...

These birds are so interesting. My husband sees their mating dance when he goes on his spring fishing trips the week the ice goes off the lake in April. It is still so cold then and I have never gone with him.

Nina @Nature Remains said...

I went to see Sandhill cranes for the first time this year, too--but it was in Indiana, not Bosque. I've always heard how magnificent they were, but couldn't even imagine how wonderful an entire day of watching them could be.
Your photos are great ones to share--thank you!

Wren said...

That sounds like a really fun class. I'm hoping to make it to Bosque del Apache some day myself.

Mary C said...

Hi Ruth - Happy New Year! I'm so glad I can at least provide some photos for you of these big beautiful birds. And, of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Hi Linda - it isn't too often that I'm willing to be an early bird, but this was a really fun class and it was so good to see the cranes in the fields and study their behaviors. I'll be sharing more with my next post.

Hi Ruth - I also find these big beauties quite interesting. I have yet to see them do their mating dance, but at least I saw a film during class time of the cranes doing their mating dance. Oh, I sure hope I get the chance one of these days to see them live. Your husband is so fortunate to see this happen, but again, it's a matter of mind over matter when it's so cold. ;o)

Hi Nina - did you see the cranes in the spring or fall? No matter which time of year, you do get the opportunity to see them communicating with each other. They are so interesting to watch. Glad you like my photos.

Wren - I sure hope you get to see the cranes, too, at the Bosque one of these days. It definitely is a class worth taking, and I love the idea that the class size was limited. One can learn so much more that way, and see nature at its best when there are fewer people in the class. I highly recommend it!

RuthieJ said...

that's sure a pretty area Mary! It must have been neat to see and hear them waking up.


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