Monday, April 8, 2013

2013 Spring Trip - Day 2 - A day on the Plains

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Well the long anticipated day has finally arrived.  For the fourth year in a row I will be spending the night in a photographer blind on the banks of the Platte River with a few thousand Sandhill Cranes.  But first there is the morning group blind to experience.

Taking Flight

One must be at the Rowe Sanctuary visitor center by 6:00 am for the morning blinds adventure, so it’s an early wake-up call.  Actually my iPhone alarm was silenced but my internal alarm was working so I made it just in time.  This morning we went downstream from the visitor center to the East blind.  Slowly we walked down the path none of us could see.  The volunteer guides knew the way and we trusted their guidance.  Reaching the blind we entered and began our wait for the sun to start coming up.

The Dance #1

It was a chilly very overcast morning.  The cranes for the most part were quiet, every once in a while you would hear some talking.  It was impossible to determine how many cranes were actually out there since it was so dark.  As the sun began casting a glow of light across the river we began seeing that we had a nice group of cranes right in front of the blind.  The anticipation of a memorable morning was beginning to build.  People were getting their cameras ready and those with binoculars were looking at the outlines and shapes of the cranes.  As the excitement arose so did the cranes.  Before you could make a decent shot the birds were spooked and they were off, all of them.  There wasn't a crane left.  At that point I was ready to call it a day and head back to the visitor center but we waited just to see if any would come back, which they didn't.  As we gathered outside the blind for the walk back snow started falling.

The Dance #2

I spend most of the day driving around the fields looking for some field action.  It’s hard to catch good images of the birds in the field.  As soon as they see you coming they start walking, and flying if you’re too close, away from the road.  Most of the shots you get are tail feathers.  Once in a while though you get some dancing and with my 100mm-400mm you can pull in some images.

The Dance #3

It was a little after 4:00 pm when I was back at the sanctuary getting ready for my trip out to the overnight blind.  Inside the visitor I found the guy managing the overnighters.  Having been there before I knew the blind I wanted, the one upstream, but it’s always a gamble on who gets which one.  I was happy to find out that a new system was put in place, which worked to my advantage.  Blinds were given out in the order reservations were made.  Since I made the earliest reservation I was able to select my preferred blind.  Twenty minutes later I was at the blind.

It was a blustery snowy day with a brisk wind.  The wind was coming from the north-east right into the windows in the blind.  So for the first few hours I sat there with the windows closed but with the back door open just so I’d be out of the weather.  The sun didn't set until 7:30 or so and the cranes don’t come in until sunset or later so there was plenty of time to kill.

 As night time started taking hold the cranes started flying over.  The mystery is where they are going to land.  I was hoping they would land on my side of the river but that was not to me.  Directly across from me the first few cranes started landing, then more and more and… (well you get the idea).  As you can see this became a video fest.  I have never seen more cranes in one place in my life it was overwhelming.  All I can saw is watch the videos and imaging being under this canopy of flying cranes. It was a show that I will not soon forget.

First to Arrive

They kept coming

And kept coming

And kept coming

Once it got to dark it was time to hit the sack.  Since I was alone in the blind I brought my cot along and did I sleep like a baby.  This is one of the very rare occurrences when being hard of hearing helps.  Once I take my aid out its quiet.


1 comment:

  1. Wonderful story and pictures. We have some Sand Cranes in CA delta area and wonderful snow geese. Looking forward to more