I spent my off-Friday morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve with the Sandhill Crane family. The babies are so much bigger, and so much cuter, than they were on Sunday. The weekend crowds weren’t there on Friday, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these wonderful birds!
As the Sandhill Crane babies grow bigger, the adults take them for longer walks around the marsh. I caught up with them as they headed away from the popular trails – smart birds! The colts constantly make these little noises as they walk around. I’m not sure if they are talking to each other, to their parents, or both. The adult birds weren’t really making noises. But the babies’ calls made it easy to get shots of them with their mouths open. I thought they were really cute!
I love watching the two colts interact. One will get a grub, and the other gets jealous and runs after him to try to steal it. It’s challenging to focus on the birds when they are running like that! But it’s fun to try. :) Some of the interactions are a little meaner. I saw the older colt try to bite the younger colt a couple of times. At one point, one colt had the other colt pinned on the ground. The parents fussed at them, both colts got up, and then everything was okay again. Maybe it’s like when my cats romp, when they sometimes get a little too rough with each other! Brotherly love!
The colts have gave graduated to bigger bits of food, including bigger worms and caterpillars. I couldn’t believe it when the adult pulled this big caterpillar out of the ground and handed it to the colt! The younger colt took it and didn’t know what to do with it. He actually ended up running towards me and dropping it near me – I guess he wanted to make sure I wasn’t hungry! The adult gave another big grub to the older colt, who did know what to do with it. He reminded me of the Black Skimmer babies as he pulled the caterpillar into his mouth and threw his head back and tried to swallow it. It took him a few tries before he got it down. Mom watched proudly as he did the final gulp.
I really liked this image of the family as they went searching for breakfast. Often the birds split up, each adult taking a baby. But here, the adults were together, and so were the babies. The green background contrasts nicely with the birds.
It will be a while before the Sandhill Crane colts’ wings fully develop. In the meantime, they have these cute little stubs. They don’t quite know what to do with them! Sometimes they will run and flap them around a little. It’s adorable. Of course, most of the time the birds are running away from me when they flap. I started to figure out that the best way to get good shots of them running towards me was to stay farther away, put the adult between me and the colt, and use my 500mm lens to quickly focus as the chick runs toward the parent.
When the adults are spooked, or when they want to talk to other birds across the marsh, they throw their heads back and call very loudly. The colts just stand there and watch. The shot below of the babies playing together reminds me of the adults when they throw their heads back to call.
This family is extremely tame, I was careful to use my long lens to avoid getting too close to them. I really liked this head shot of the older colt. His face is all dirty from running around in the marsh all morning!
Note: I just want to clarify that in my previous post, “Sandhill Cranes Crawl into my Lap at the Circle B Bar Reserve,” the babies did not actually crawl into my lap. I sat still very a very long time, and they eventually came close to me, but I did not touch them or bother them in any way. I regularly use my long 500mm lens to photograph wildlife. If the birds seem bothered, I move away. Please be a responsible wildlife photographer and do the same! As some so-called nature photographers found out this weekend at Circle B, people who get too close to the birds can be fined and/or jailed. Please please be respectful of these creatures!!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Circle B Bar Reserve?
Check out my Circle B Bar Reserve page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
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Jess: Great photos – as usual! Thanks for the note at the end. I greatly appreciate your help on this issue. Jeff
Respecting and protecting our birds is really important to me. I’m happy to use my blog to spread that message.