Last Sunday I returned to check on my Sandhill Crane colt “Uno”, and that visit was special not only because Uno was celebrating his one-week birthday, but also because I got to photograph him with my good friends Debbie and Michael. The sun was out, the breeze was cool, and it was so great to sit in the grass chatting with friends while photographing this precious little colt.
I love these feeding shots with Mom or Dad bending down to share a tasty morsel with the colt. Often there are little wildflowers starting to pop up, too, and they lend such a feeling of springtime to the image. Look at the concentration on the little colt’s face as he watches Mom handle his breakfast! That bug got dropped and re-picked-up several times before it finally made its way down the little colt’s throat.
Here’s little Uno’s one week portrait! He no longer struggles to keep up with his parents as they meander around his nest site. Here they took a side trip under a tree before heading back to the grassy meadows. I would guess that he’s already doubled in height from when I photographed him the day after he hatched. All those bugs he’s been eating are really working for him!
The thing that is so special about Sandhill Cranes is that they are so gentle and attentive with their families. Both parents are constantly hovering over the baby to ensure his safety (and full belly!) Here I was pleased to capture all three birds in a pose that conveys that emotion. Both parents had a bug for the little guy at the same time, and he didn’t know which one to eat first! (The bug from the right beak won.)
The colts do this wonderful little wing-flap-and-run routine that I refer to as the “hop! skip! jump!” dance. They’ll be standing there quietly, then all of a sudden they will start flapping those stubby little wing-tips and running as fast as they can. Often they are running towards a parent with food. It’s hard to capture that little dance in still photos, as the images often just look like the baby is stretching his little winglets. Here I managed to capture the motion in the bird’s feet as he threw back his wings, and…the best part…he actually ran toward the camera! This colt gets an A in Photography Modeling 101! :)
As the morning went on, the baby spent some time in the dappled shade under a tree. The feeding just never stops! Often the colt will tumble down into the grass for a quick nap, but he jumps up as soon as Mom offers him the next morsel.
Here Mom reached back to check on the little colt, and did this great beak-to-beak moment with him. Then she nipped him on the tip of the beak! I wonder what he said to her. Maybe he complained about all the walking? ;-)
I’m not sure when I’ll have a chance to check back on Baby Uno, so this is probably the last you’ll see of him. Grow up well and strong, little colt!
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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