Skip to main content

Sandhill Cranes over Indiana

I made a whirlwind trip to the state next door last weekend, Indiana. The Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society was holding its annual meeting, which is a big affair. In this photo, which I made with my iPhone from the balcony of the conference room at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis, Doug Tallamy orates to the group. It was a packed house - about 350 attendees. They take their flora seriously in the Hoosier State. I was flattered to be asked back (3rd or 4th time!) to speak, especially given the otherwise star-studded lineup: Doug, Rick Darke, Mike Homoya, and Kevin Tungesvick. It was a great time, and fun to catch up with lots of people and hear some great talks. Kudos to all of the conference organizers and volunteers for the usual bang-up job.

Mid-November in Indiana means crane time, though, as in Sandhill Cranes. And the Mecca for Hoosier State cranes is Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area, which is in only two hours or so northwest of the conference venue. Even though I've made the Jasper crane scene a number of times, at the last moment I decided to stay over there and arrive at the big crane field the following morning before daybreak. This decision was partly based on the weather - it was to be a bright clear day, and every other time I've been, the skies have been leaden-gray. Blue ether would make a better backdrop for photography, of course.

The observation tower casts a long shadow over Goose Pasture as the sun pops over the horizon. This mammoth field serves as the gathering ground for myriad cranes before they begin their day, and again in the evening before they fly off to the marshes to roost for the night.

I prefer being here as the sun rises, for a few reasons. One, the light is to your back. Two, there are generally way fewer people than in the evening. Sometimes the viewing platform is overly packed for the dusk show, but even on this beautiful Sunday morning, just after sunrise, there was plenty of room for everyone and our tripods.

Assembled crane enthusiasts admire assembled cranes in the field beyond. I was told that estimates put the number of cranes at about 8,000 birds, but it didn't seem like that many to me. Nonetheless, there was certainly no shortage of the spectacular animals.

This scene is kind of Disneyesque and I couldn't resist making the shot. A trip of Sandhill Cranes wings by while a White-tailed Deer gallops along, and a loose assemblage of more cranes loiters in the backdrop. Such is Jasper in November.

While there are places where far more cranes gather than here, J-P is still an amazing experience. People come from near and far to drink in the sight of these fabulous giants flying about, wings spanning well over six feet. Cranes are vociferous, and the air resounds with their primitive guttural rattles.

As the sun cleared the horizon, its rays began to cause flying cranes to glow with beautiful golden tones, and the click of cameras accelerated. I met some new friends on the platform, and we had a great time shooting birds, talking photography, and alerting each other to incoming opportunities. Mike Bader was one of them, and some of his stunning work can be seen RIGHT HERE. In general, bird photography is a solo pursuit, but in this case it doesn't matter. The cranes are probably going to act the same whether there was just one person hiding under the platform, or 75 people gabbing away on the deck.

A gorgeous red-capped adult crane wings right over the platform. I shudder to think how many images were clicked off of this bird. It sounded like mini machine guns going off. I shot this one with my Canon 7D Mark II which fires ten frames (rounds) a second, and there was plenty of similar hardware aimed at the bird. There must be millions of (camera) shots fired at cranes at J-P during the peak fall migration.

Sandhill Cranes remain together as family units throughout winter and well into spring. Many of the groups have at least one juvenile in tow. Here, a youngster trails an adult. The juveniles give a distinctive high-pitched whistle in flight, sometimes drowned out by the adults' raucous rattles.

Jasper-Pulaski should be prime for cranes into mid-December, so if you're looking for an interesting avian experience, check it out.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Ballooning spiders

Fear not, ye arachnophobes. The subject of this entry is indeed about spiders, but the star of the show is about as cute as a spider can get. And you'll want to know what we're about to learn...

On my recent West Virginia foray, we were strolling down a seldom-used lane, when a bright yellow object caught our eye. It was a goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, on top of a post! Not only that, she - it is a girl - was acting extraordinarily goofy. The spider would stilt up as high as she could go on her legs, weave back and forth, jig side to side, and otherwise engage in what appeared to be spider break-dancing.

Click the pic for expansion, and you can see two columns of silk issuing from her spinnerets. This is an important point, as we set about determining what this non-web-making spider is doing.


So fixated was our spider on her task that she even rejected what would seem to me to be a perfectly scrumptious meal. This little caterpillar climbed rapidly up the post and dire…