Thanks to my friend Michael, I went to Viera Wetlands last weekend to photograph a pair of Sandhill Crane colts. They were just precious! Our friend Debbie drove up from South Florida and we joined a few other photographers in admiring the young family. It was the first time I’ve photographed a pair of colts at the nest. Often only one colt survives. Both of these colts seemed strong and feisty. We had such a great morning watching them.
When we first arrived, the adult crane was lying on the nest and had both chicks tucked under her wing. Before long, a colt popped out. He ventured to the edge of the nest, checked out his surroundings, and then decided to make a dash for Mom’s neck. He was so cute! The still photos just didn’t capture the joyful run or the thrust onto Mom’s back. A few clicks in Photoshop merged the shots to show the progression…much better!
Mom eventually tucked her little charge under her wing and went back to sleep. Dad was off foraging in the distance, and eventually disappeared for a while. So Mom wasn’t anxious for her colts to wake up too early. Besides, it was chilly and breezy that morning, good reasons for colts to stay warm under Mom. But colts get restless, and it wasn’t long before they made an appearance together…
I’ve often observed colts fighting with each other, but I’ve never seen them fighting in Mom’s wings before! Too funny!
Actually, small Sandhill Cranes can be quite brutal with each other. They wrestle and peck at each other, and really, it’s “survival of the fittest.” These guys were less vicious than some.
I thanked the cool breeze, which definitely gave us more “on the nest time” than I expected. Usually the birds get up and start foraging for breakfast as soon as the colts awake. Instead, we got to see the second colt playing Peek-a-boo while the first colt explored.
Then the colts played together on top of the nest. They stretched their tiny stub-let wings and reminded me that in a few short months, they will be as tall as their parents and make their first flights.
Finally, though, the babies started to take matters into their own beaks. They were hungry! They continually reached for Mom’s beak, begging for a morsel. She pulled out a bit of eggshell for one and a small bug for the other, but no, that wasn’t doing the trick. Where are the worms and bugs, Mom?
Dad came back and joined the family as they left the nest and began foraging in the marsh. I hoped they would come close and maybe hang out in the clean grass (i.e. with a good background!) Alas, they had no interest in fulfilling a photographer’s desires. But before I left, one of the babies did extend me an invitation…
Watching Sandhill Cranes is one of the best parts of springtime photography. The gentleness of the adults, the cuteness of the colts…there’s something so exquisitely sweet about each family of birds. Still photographs don’t always do it justice. So to close out this blog post, here’s a video of a few more precious moments!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Viera Wetlands?
Check out my Viera Wetlands 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!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!