Two weekends ago, my friend Michael Libbe asked if I wanted to shoot together at the Circle B Bar Reserve. Little did I realize that I’d later be accused of dragging him on a long hike carrying his heavy equipment! :-p I perhaps should have warned him that I’m on a Sandhill Crane colt craze this year. The little orange fuzzballs are totally worth a hike! We found both families at Circle B on that Saturday morning.
We started out on the Heron Hideout trail, where the first Sandhill Crane family tends to hang out. The babies have gotten so big! They are almost reaching that leggy stage when their baby cuteness is gone and their “teenage” feathers start coming in. With their long legs and increased stamina, the babies didn’t stay in one place for very long.
Michael and I followed them for a bit as they walked along the trail, stopping often to pull a nice insect from the ground. The babies are feeding themselves now, but they will always accept a handout from Mom or Dad.
With a forecast of clouds and fog, I hadn’t intended to photograph the sunrise that morning. But as I walked along the Eagle Roost trail, I looked back and noticed the sun’s rays streaming down through the clouds. It was very pretty. Usually I like to include water features in my sunrise shots, but in this case, the nice trail leading you into the clouds will work too…
As we approached the Wading Bird Way trail, an Eastern Towhee called to us, reminding us to “drink our tea!” As Rich would say, these are discriminating towhees. Sometimes they are not, and they just call out “drink!” We also saw Eastern Meadowlarks in the tops of the pines. A Gray Catbird hopped out onto a fairly open branch to say hello as well.
There was so much to see on the Wading Bird Way trail as the birds woke up, but I spotted the Sandhill Crane family and dragged Michael along. I really do have Sandhill Crane fever this spring! The little guys are such fun. This second family’s colts were about a week old – very small, cute orange fuzzballs!
This second crane family is a little more cautious than the first family. They stayed a safe distance away from their adoring fans, and moved off into the bushes when people got too close. I’m glad, because the other family is way too accustomed to people! I use my 500mm lens with teleconverters when I’m photographing these guys so that I don’t have to get very close to them. The distance lets me capture fun moments, such as this family breakfast shot:
The parents were feeding the babies constantly. Mostly insects and small worms. At one point the parent tried to feed a bigger grub to the chick, who got three opportunities with it before Mom decided to swallow it herself!
These siblings interacted with each other a lot. They’d run after each other, bite at each other, and grab each other’s worms. I even caught a few shots where Baby #1 was biting at the wing of Baby #2. It was hilarious.
A loud helicopter or plane flew overhead at one point, and it was fun to watch the babies react. The parents didn’t seem bothered by the noise at all, but both babies stopped and turned their heads to try to see what was making the ruckus. I loved this shot with both their head angles as they stood puzzling over their new world…
One of the things I love about the Circle B Bar Reserve is the wide variety of birdlife. While we stood and watched the Sandhill Crane family, all these other birds entertained us as well. We saw at least four Black-Necked Stilts flying around (my first-of-spring sightings). A couple of Yellowlegs ran around in front of us. Wood Storks and a few American White Pelicans flew around our heads. It’s hard to get bored standing out on Wading Bird Way in the early morning at this time of year!
I missed most of the migrant ducks this winter. I chuckled to myself when I photographed this Blue-Winged Teal in flight and realized that he was my first teal of the winter! At least I was able to get back out on the trails before he too headed for home…
This too was my first Pied-Billed Grebe shot of the season. The grebes are such plain little ducks, but they are quite pretty in their breeding colors. Now I want to see one with babies. Their little fuzzballs are very colorful! Maybe if I’m lucky this spring…you always have something that draws you back into the marshes… :)
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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