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



Sunrise hues and Sandhill Cranes

Via Flickr:
Copyright © 2012 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

The Sandhill Cranes are making their winter migration  from the North to the Pacific Fly-way in California’s Central Valley.  Lodi,CA was having its annual Sandhill Crane festival over the week-end of Nov. 3-4, 2012. Several friends and I went. We had a great time and spotted some great birds in addition to the Cranes. I took this photo the morning of the 4th just after the sun rose. We got up early, and drove out to the country to see the “Fly-out”. The Cranes spent the night in the fields where we were, but they spend the day in other fields where they’ll graze on corn.

My ears were filled with the sounds of honking Cranes, and geese, quacking ducks, and periodically the sounds of hundreds of wings as flocks of birds lifted off. It was an amazing morning to be alive.

Nikon D300s| Nikkor 80-200@80mm|f5.6| 1/3200| ISO 200| Manual Priority| Hand-held

Landscape in Lodi

Landscape in Lodi, originally uploaded by dmzajac2004-.

Via Flickr:
Copyright © 2012 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

Dawn from the outer edge of a freshly mowed corn field waiting for the Sandhill Crane Fly-out.
It was a very peaceful, easy morning…until the Geese woke up.
Good grief they’re a noisy bunch!

Nikon D700| Nikkor 24mm f2.8 AF-D| f16| 0.4 sec| ISO 200| Manual Priority| Tripod

California, Nikon D700, Nikkor 24mm f2.8 AF-D


Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane, originally uploaded by dmzajac2004-.

Copyright © 2011 Deborah M. Zajac. All Rights Reserved.

To see the photo larger click anywhere in the photo.

We were headed back to town after spending a lovely afternoon with B who is a local resident of Chico and who very kindly offered to take us out on some back roads to look for Snow Geese and other birds when B who was driving the lead car slowed down then stopped.
Alex wondered what they saw and off to the left behind some tall bushes I saw two big blue birds. I asked, “Are those Herons?”
Alex said, “”Those aren’t Herons, they’re cranes!” I think we all realized it at the same time because no sooner had he finished that sentence I had my camera out, the car door open and so did everyone in B’s car with Alex quickly following me out of the car.

There were two Sandhill Cranes standing here, but I have cropped one out since it had its back to me with his face turned away.
What a thrill! Finally one that was sort of close to the road! You recall me telling you how I missed them last year and really hoped to see them this year so you know I was excited. I didn’t think my photo would turn out. I took three before they got skittish and flew off. Two were awful this is the best one of the 3 shots I took.
They flew to a back corner and there in the corner were several more!

In just a few weeks these wonderful birds will start leaving for more Northern climates. I would like to get out to the marshlands once more before they do.

Nikon D300s| Nikkor 300mm f4@ f5| 1/160 sec| ISO 500| Manual Mode| Hand-held

Nelson Road; Butte County; Oroville, California; Sandisk Ultra II Digital Film; CS5