This is my last post about my Sandhill Crane family – well, at least for now! I had such a good time observing and photographing these cute little guys. I’m like my friend Deb – I’m a Craniac! Every spring, after my photographer friends get tired of photographing the babies, I keep going back for more. I just can’t help myself. I was looking back at some of my previous Sandhill Crane colt posts from other years, and I found this snippet that made me smile: “Date of addition: April 3, 2010!” It’s hard to believe it was just a few years ago when my dad first introduced me to the family at Circle B.
The little cranes were seven days old on this visit. They became more alert and more interested in the world around them with each morning that I spent with them. In the above shot, the colts were listening to their parents calling. If you’ve ever seen the Sandhill Crane adults fuss, you’ll know what I mean. The adults throw back their heads, flap their wings vigorously, and let out these loud calls that can be heard for a mile away. It’s an impressive sound, and I can only imagine what the little colts think about the noise! Whenever the parents do this, the little guys don’t run for cover. They throw their heads up and look around, as if to ask “what’s going on!?!?”
The Sandhill Crane colts were especially playful, or competitive, on this morning. I’ve read that it’s normal for there to be regular fighting between the babies. The oldest baby, who is usually a day or two bigger than his sibling, tends to get a little aggressive at times. Often the babies go at each others’ beaks, and I think they are looking for food. In the shot above, the two babies were running around, and the back colt is going for his brother’s beak. But when that didn’t work…
…he grabbed his brother’s wing instead! The younger bird just pulled his wing back and then they went back to feeding. Mom stood by the whole time, seemingly unconcerned. (You can see her legs on the right side of the shots.) The little baby didn’t seem to be injured or particularly disturbed. I think it’s like when my cats romp, and in their play, they sometimes get a little rough.
Or maybe sometimes they are a little aggressive. Clearly one colt is trying to poke his brother in the eye. That nictitating membrane (second eyelid) comes in handy! This picture also demonstrates the perpetual problem in Sandhill Crane family photography: the mother always gets in the way! It’s fun to listen to the photographers as we work: “No, Mom, get out of the way! Dad, your legs are in front of the baby! We don’t want black sticks in our shots!”
The colts’ playtime wasn’t all vicious! I tried so hard to capture the glee with which the little babies would run through the grass, flapping their wings. But it’s really hard to get these shots, because the babies go from boring feeding to happy dancing in no time at all. You have to keep the camera ready and focus really quickly as the babies run around. The above shot isn’t totally focused, but it was the best I did at capturing the dance.
Sandhill Crane families stick together. The adults will feed their babies for a long time, and the colts will stay with their parents for almost a full year. But even though they’ll have a steady stream of tasty morsels from Mom and Dad, by day seven, they had started to learn to forage on their own. I loved the moment that I captured as the second colt looks on while the first colt pulls a bug from the grass.
I had to laugh when I saw this shot on my screen when I downloaded my pictures. The baby’s mouth is full of worm, and he’s throwing his head back as he gulps! The food morsels were noticeably bigger each day that I visited. By day seven, the colts had gotten pretty good at throwing their heads back and executing that final gulp.
We’ll leave this little Sandhill Crane family with a group shot. The adults were feeding and the colts were exploring around a tall tree. It looks like they are playing hide and seek! It’s a fun shot that reminds me of all my chuckles as I watched these birds through their first seven days of life. Best of luck to you, little birdies! I hope you grow tall and strong and return to someday have colts of your own. I’d be happy to be the official family photographer! :)
Want to learn more about nature photography at Sandhill Crane Nest?
Check out my Sandhill Crane Nest 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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