Sandhill Cranes are Arriving!

Copyright © 2013 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

I’ve been looking forward to this week-end for a month. It’s that time of year when the Sandhill Cranes return for the Winter Migration. A friend of mine (Judi) has been posting Sandhill Cranes from Merced Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Flyway this past week which really excited me. She reported that they were less skittish, and were a  bit closer to the “Auto-Route” we take to see them. I’ve been wanting a really good close up of a Sandhill Crane for years. This report gave me hope that this might be my year.

Yesterday, my friend Rainey and I went over to the Refuge and had a wonderful time. We called Judi and met her at the Refuge. We were not disappointed. The weather was California perfect; sunny, warm, and with a slight breeze. The Cranes were closer than I’d ever seen them.

Sandhill CraneThey are so beautiful with their Red Heart shaped face, and wonderful plumage.

We drove the “Auto-route” several times in the late morning and early afternoon.

We even saw a family group with a juvenile. It’s the little one in front without a red face.

Sandhill CranesThen we went to lunch at an” old-time” family drive-in Burger Joint called H&M in Merced. They say they’re famous for their seasoned fries which are delicious, but their Guacamole Burger is just as good. The Avocado Burger is my next favorite burger on the menu. After a diet busting lunch we went back to the Refuge for another drive around before heading home.

On this last trip around the refuge we saw groups of Sandhill Cranes flying in for the night.

Sandhill CranesToday,  Rainey, Dali, and I went up north to Lodi to the Sandhill Crane Festival and found the weather completely different from yesterday.   Overnight our warm Indian Summer changed to Fall; it was cold, and so windy the top soil was blowing so thick visibility was only 10-20 feet! We didn’t see too many Cranes and those we saw were pretty far back in the fields near the Levees or in the taller rows of mowed corn for protection.

Sandhill CranesWe did see other birds of note: a Belted Kingfisher ( still my nemesis I’m afraid), Dali got the Kingfisher shot today. We also saw Lesser Sandpipers, and a Snipe shown below so, the day wasn’t a total loss.

SnipeIt was a great birding week-end with friends. I’m looking forward to going back to both Wildlife Refuges this winter.

Nikon D300s| Nikkor AF-S 80-400mm G




Copyright ©2013 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

ZajacWhen I got married way back in the early 80’s my name changed to Zajac. It’s Polish and means White Rabbit, or Little Rabbit depending on which Eastern European you’re talking to. 🙂 I’ve named our house Rabbit Hollow. In Polish my last name is pronounced Zi-onsh.
I’ve never really felt the name is me, but He-Man, and my children are Zajac’s, and  I’m honored to be bonded with them for the rest of my life. I’ve often wondered if other married women feel this way? You know, my daughter will always be a Zajac to me no matter what.

I took this photo last week-end while out birding looking for Cedar Waxwings. It’s thought this rabbit was a pet set free. People have been seen feeding it I’m told.

Nikon D300s| Nikkor 300mm f/4

Two hours in the park

Copyright © 2013 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.


Last Saturday I had the pleasure of going birding with a my friend Dali. We heard the Cedar Waxwings were returning, and we hoped to find them.

We found a good size flock of them zipping through the Aspens, and pines in the park.  We spent most the morning photographing them.

Cedar WaxwingWe spotted several other birds too. I managed to nail this photo of a White Crown Sparrow as it was just about to take off.

White Crowned Sparrow taking offThere was an old dead tree along the creek that had several Acorn Woodpeckers, and Starlings perched on it. Here’s an Acorn Woodpecker taking a quick break from pecking for bugs.

Acorn WoodpeckerIn the wooded area we came across these lovely berries. I don’t know what plant this is, but it was lovely in the morning light, and the colors were vibrant, and perfect for the season.

Spiky BerriesIt was in this area we also saw several Anna’s Hummingbirds flitting around.

Anna's Hummingbird profileDali says this is a Yellow Throat Warbler. If it is this is the first one I’ve ever seen.

Yellow Throat WarblerHere are a few more Cedar Waxwings. I just love seeing them. They’re so exotic.

Cedar Waxwing_0878

The Aspens in the park were at peak Fall color, and the Waxwings liked being in the yellow branches.

Cedar on Aspen…and here’s one that was high on top of a tree feathering its nest.

Feathering the Nest

It was a very successful outing for birding, and a lovely way to spend two hours.

All the photos were taken with a Nikon D300s with a Nikkor 300mm f/4 lens, hand-held.