Saturday, September 13, 2014

Seasons change (in remembrance of seasons past…)

I liked how the cranes would arrange themselves in neat lines along the furrows

The seasons are shifting here in Texas. A cold front brought 3 days of drizzly overcast and highs in the low 70s. Considering that only last week we were topping out in the low 100s, this is quite a change. I was not ready for such an abrupt transition. Frankly, I was expecting to fight 90+ degree heat well into October. I may yet.

The birds know what's coming, though. We are in the peak of the southern hummingbird migration here in Fort Worth. I hung a feeder a few days ago, and the transient and ferociously hungry hummers found it just hours after it was filled.  I live in downtown Fort Worth and I can only imagine what the populations are like in less urban areas. 

I love the awkward way cranes land

On a related note, I was flipping through pictures stored on my camera this morning, and I re-discovered a series of images I took capturing this year's other major seasonal transition: instead of the casual moving-on of birds migrating to warmer climes for the winter, I snapped shots of sandhill cranes hurriedly re-fueling on the way to their summer breeding grounds.

Some of you may be aware that I moved to Texas from the state of Nebraska.  I spent most of my time on the Platte River in central Nebraska, the midway point and major pit-stop for the sandhill crane migration. With the conversion of much of the prairie to corn, sandhill cranes have responded to the shift in available calories and are now 95% corn-fed.

I took these pictures on a late March day in Nebraska. It was warm enough that I didn't need a heavy jacket, but cold enough that I shivered in the shade. My fingers went numb when I took them out of my gloves to operate my camera, and I had to alternate shooting and warming them under my armpits. I noticed this particular flock of cranes because I was out at a nearby state natural area, intent on taking advantage of the (relatively) warm weather. When I spotted a large flock of cranes picking at an adjacent cornfield, I saw my opportunity to sneak closer. I climbed up a berm on the property line and hid in the hedgerow like a creeper. I was quite lucky-- the birds didn't notice me, and they drifted closer as they fed. Contrary to peoples' expectations, if you want to see sandhill cranes, lurking in a fallow cornfield is a better bet than hiding in a blind at "zero dark thirty".
View from the bush (it was a red cedar)

Funny enough, these same birds winter near my new home in Texas. Interesting aside: on the Platte River, there was one famous whooping crane (already extremely rare birds, ~300 left in the wild) who would migrate with the sandhill cranes. Just now I was reading a TPWD article online, and they mentioned a single whooper who wintered with the sandhill cranes in Texas. I wonder if it's the same confused fellow.


1 comment:

  1. For me, the transition from summer to fall is always exciting but bittersweet. This morning (Sunday, 14 Sept) it was definitely brisk here in Arlington, VA.