Never having been lucky enough to get one of these guys through my lens, I went out with a photographer that knows how to find them and we saw six. I always thought early morning should be best but these guys were late morning/early afternoon actors. Makes sense, as that’s when the ground squirrels are active too. These are wild animals…just not harassed in this area. You can see the images in full frame by double-clicking on them.
“What’re those guys in the car doing?”
Bad hair day
“I’m getting tired of this invasion of my privacy.”
“Gotta get this tail clean”
“Dinner’s hiding in the hole…come on out!”
In early October I hear the cranes high overhead as they head down to their wintering grounds in the Central Valley. Looking up into the sky, I usually can’t find them as my hearing aids scramble the direction of the sound and they’re often above the clouds anyway. But their calling indicates their presence and as they’re one of the few birds my failing hearing can still detect, it is a joy. April brings a similar event as they start to head back to their breeding grounds in the north.
Driving the farm roads in the upper Sacramento Valley is the way I find cranes in the winter. They frequent the farm fields, tilled until next season’s plantings; the several waterfowl refuges; and open pasturelands.
Sadly, their core habitat surrounding Lodi (yes…the Lodi of “stuck in Lodi again”) is rapidly being converted to wine grapes, good for us cabernet enthusiasts but very bad for the cranes.
Yesterday was a great day for crane photography as I found a flock of about 30 near the road. They were obscured by the roadside vegetation from vehicles but I was able to park on the apron, quietly setting my tripod up in the bed of my truck where I could see over the fencerow.
I then spent 2 ½ wonderful hours watching them feeding, flying in and out, and interacting. I took over 1200 images, erased most, but here are some of the best.