20 04 2014

It was a bright sunny evening tonight as I left the house on my normal evening drive. A neighbor called earlier today and mentioned that he saw some unusual ducks on a pond down the road so I decided to take a different route to survey the area. I didn’t find those ducks and what I saw I would have never imagined.

The first thing I spotted tonight was a pair of beautiful wood ducks on a beaver pond. These were not the ducks my neighbor told me about but I was glad to see them because I love wood ducks and they were in a beautiful setting.


Female and Male Wood Ducks

I have mentioned in other posts that northern harriers are everywhere I look these days. Tonight was no exception. First I saw a male working a field for food and then a female quietly preening on the ground. I watched her for quite a while and then decided to continue my exploration in hopes of seeing a short-eared owl.


Female Northern Harrier Preening

As I approached a large cornfield I saw very tall gray bird. My intuition immediately said “Sandhiill Crane” and my mind followed that up with “Yah, right! Sandhill crane? Are you nuts? It must be a Great Blue Heron.” I pulled up a little closer so that I could get a look at it without disturbing it. I know herons can be flighty and I wanted to get a good look and some pictures before it took flight. I grabbed the binoculars and what I saw took my breath away!


Sandhill Crane with Silos on North Gage Rd in the Background

A tall gray bird with a red patch on its head, a Sandhill Crane! I immediately put the car in park, jumped in the passenger seat and started taking pictures. I knew if I didn’t get some images no one would believe what I had seen.


Red Head!


Keely Aware Yet, Not Afraid


Beauty and Grace

I sat observing, photographing, and soaking in the grace of this magnificent bird for almost an hour. At one point I repositioned the car as the crane had meandered away while nibbling on corn in the field. It seemed aware and watchful but not disturbed by my presence. It ate, it preened, it looked about. Initially my adrenaline was pumping and I rested the camera on the window opening in the car door to steady my nerves and support the camera to stop some of the shaking of my hands. After being with this crane for some time a alert calm washed over me. As I became calmer the crane continued to wander and got much closer to where I was parked. I sat very still and watched. It could hear the clicking of my camera shutter so I decreased the number of pictures I was taking so it could eat in peace.




Eying a Morsel


Listening and Watching

Then in the distance I heard the rattle of buggy wheels and the clip clop of horse hooves. The Amish family who lives nearby makes a nightly tip to the milk house down the road and it was that time. I watched as the crane became keenly aware and interested in the noise that was approaching. It fluffed its feathers and eliminated and we both prepared for takeoff. Amazingly the crane remained in the field while the noisy buggy rattle past.


Ready to Go!

After we were alone once more I realized that the crane was now intently watching me, moving its head to get a better look. I sat perfectly still. I didn’t take any pictures or even lower my head to the view finder. It was an intense few seconds as the crane decided what to do. Then it took flight. Once it was in the air and past my position I jumped out of the car to capture a couple shots of it in the air before it literally disappeared into the sunset.




The Parting

I am grateful every day for the big and small miracles I witness in nature. I am truly honored each time I am allowed to experience the wild beauty that surrounds us. Tonight I feel like the luckiest person in the world!



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