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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Apr 26, 2012


Incoming Cranes

It has been raining on and off for the past couple of days and the temperature has dropped quite a bit.  When combined with a brisk wind, it's the kind of weather that leaves you wondering if you need to get back into the winter gear.  But I was much too restless to just stay in and headed out just after lunch.  However, I hadn't gone far when the skies began to sprinkle, so I just ducked into the little forest down the street.

A wave of Sandhill cranes
It was very quiet in there.  Aside from the wind and creaking trees, all I heard was a couple of near silent peeps from some chickadees.  It was like the forest was holding it's breath.  I realized quickly enough, that this might just be one of those days when I see nothing at all in the way of birds.  However, I was reluctant to go home, so I just wandered around for a while taking photos of some interesting new growth.  I was really hoping to find some wildflowers, but ended up with mushrooms and newly formed buds instead.  I quickly became quite engrossed, but it wasn't all that long before I heard an unusual sound in the distance.  At first I just wondered what the sound was, but didn't really pay all that much attention.

Bunching up

However, with the sound becoming increasingly louder, it finally hit me.  Cranes!!!  By that time, I had only a few seconds to focus my camera on the tree tops and to scurry into a position that would allow me an unobstructed view of the sky.  As a result I missed the first wave of Sandhill Cranes flying overhead.

The wind changed direction

That didn't matter much however, because I could hear that more were coming.  My only worry was whether or not I was in the right place to spot the next wave.  As it turns out, it was a worry I shouldn't have bothered with, because the first wave of Cranes was soon followed by another. 

More cranes follow

They were flying low enough that I got some great shots of their incredible numbers.  There were hundreds and hundreds of them.  It was both fantastic and amazing.  And I wasn't alone in watching the Cranes fly by over head.  By the time the second wave had passed over, some crows had arrived and settled on the tree tops to watch them pass by as well.
Can you count them?

The winds must have really favored the cranes this year.  Wave after wave passed over me, all of them in constant communicating with each other.  The wind would change, and they would change their direction along with it, riding it just like a boat rides the waves of the ocean.  Occasionally one or two would lose the air current and  fall behind, only to beat their wings frantically to catch hold of it again and catch up with their fellows.


I have seen migrating cranes before of course, usually in the fall, but I have never seen them migrating virtually all at once.  The first time I saw them, it was one very large group struggling hard to ride the rapidly shifting air currents.  They were followed an hour or so later by another group.  This time, ten or fifteen minutes passed as I watched wave after wave of  cranes pass by in rapid succession.   The word awesome, my favorite, comes to mind here, but it just doesn't do the trick. 

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

When the Cranes finally stopped passing over me, I felt deflated, thinking I was done with bird sightings for the day.
Tennessee Warbler
I was, quite happily wrong.  The cranes were followed almost immediately by a wave of Yellow-rumped warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Tennessee Warblers.  

Showing his crown
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Whereas the forest was quiet when I entered,  it was suddenly alive with birdsong and activity.   Talk about being in the right place at the right time.  It was wondrous!  I'm not likely to forget this incredible experience, not in this lifetime anyway.



  1. Susan, what an incredible experience it must have been to see wave after wave of cranes flying overhead. I would be dumbstruck!

  2. Oh Susan, this sounds like a glorious experience! I have seen similar "waves" of Sandhill Cranes flying aloft. It truly is a sight to behold. Your narrative is fantastic. Love the wonderful photographs, too! Sweet colorful warblers and tiny kinglet. Wonderful post!