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Category Archives: Sandhill Cranes

Spring is the time I like to drive over to Gilbert Creek Wildlife Area to view the birds. We had driven past last week and noticed that there were already a number of Sandhill Cranes in the area. I drove down just after sunrise and didn’t see much to photograph. Later in the morning we were in the area so we drove over to see if things had improved. Just as we arrived my wife noticed a couple of Sandhill Cranes calling. There was another pair in the wetlands but we couldn’t see them.

There were quite a few Red-winged Blackbirds around but we didn’t see any females.

Lots of Canada Geese in the pond.

There were also quite a few ducks around including  this pair that seemed to be staking out a nesting place. There were also a number of Wood Ducks around but they were a little skittish so no photos.

When things get a little dull I like to take photos of just about anything. This is last years Cattail.

Last week my wife and I had a meeting in Duluth and on the way up we decided to drive through Crex Meadows. I wasn’t sure what we would find because the Crex Meadows Website hadn’t been updated since January. We were very pleasantly surprised at the number of birds we saw. Large numbers of Sandhill Cranes in the flowages.

We were watching these two Cranes when we notice a Bald Eagle flying toward us. He was busy hunting and wasn’t paying much attention so I managed to get a few shots of hunting. He managed to catch what appeared to be a small fish. Shortly after catching it another Bald Eagle flew into the area and he quickly joined it. This one appeared to be not a fully mature eagle the second on was a mature eagle.

There were also large numbers of Trumpeter Swans already staking out their nesting territory. These two were right next to the road. The water was still frozen and one of them was having trouble paddling through the ice.

There were also a large number of Canada Geese in the flowages. There were far more geese that I’ve seen for quite some time. It many be that they are just passing through. These two looked like they were staking out a nesting site.

There were also a variety of ducks in the flowages. They seemed to be the most timid waterfowl and generally fly before I can get a photo. I was happy to capture a female Mallard and a female Hooded Merganser before they took off.

 

On any fall visit to Crex Meadows the main attraction is the migration of the Sandhill Cranes. About an hour before sunset they return from the fields surrounding Grantsburg, Wisconsin where they have been feeding. Wave after wave of them fly into the meadows providing some great opportunities for photography. In the morning the process is reversed. At sunrise you can see thousands of Sandhill Cranes at their roosting sites. From Sunrise to mid morning the cranes gradually fly out of the Meadows to feed in the fields. Crex Meadows offers an outstanding opportunity to view the Sandhill Crane migration up close.

More photos from Crex Meadows can be found on my website.

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Last week we made our first summer visit to Crex Meadows since returning from Iceland. Things have really changed since our last visit. The large amount rain we received in May and June has raised the water levels in the ponds and really made the vegetation grow. In some places it is difficult to photograph from the car because the grass is so high along the road.

We found some Wood Ducks sitting on a log. On our second pass around the Meadows this one was still sitting there and posed for me. It’s the first Wood Duck I’ve been able to photograph up close and my first one at Crex.

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The ducklings were all over the place. It was fun to watch them making their way through the lily pads.

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This Red-winged Blackbird landed next to the road. I had my wife drive up to it and it didn’t move. I was able to get some great shots before moving on.

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We found this fledgling sitting in the road. When we stopped it hopped into the foliage along the road and sat there while I took its picture. I think it was a young Red-winged Blackbird.

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There were lots of Trumpeter Swans around with their young. They looked to be teenagers now.

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We drove past a Bald Eagle nest on the north side of the refuge. It had one eagle in it. The wind was blowing and it seemed to be testing its wings into the wind. I will probably be gone from the nest very soon.

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A short time later we encountered two Sandhill Cranes walking through the Prairie.

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I’ve photographed Great Blue Herons before at Crex but this is probably the best photo of them that I’ve gotten.

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It was a great day for bird photography.

On our way up to Duluth we stopped at Crex Meadows. We heard there were some American White Pelicans on Phantom Lake but when we arrive we could only find one. It looked like it might have an injured wing.

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There were plenty of ducks around including quite a few Ring-necked ducks on the various flowages.

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We saw quite a few Canada Geese around some of them had Goslings with them others were still on the nest.

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We also saw some Pied-billed Grebes on some of the flowages.

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There were lots of Trumpeter Swans although we were sad to see that a pair that had been nesting right next to the road was no longer around. The Muskrat house they had been nesting on was gone. No idea what happened. There were some Sandhill Cranes in the same area.

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One evening my wife and I decided to drive down the road to a small pond along the road. Earlier in the day we had seen some Wood Ducks in the pond. They usually show up in the spring before disappearing.

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On the way down we noticed this Sandhill Crane feeding in a field. This is becoming a common sight in Wisconsin.

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We were off to Duluth for a few days and decided to drive though Grantsburg an visit Crex Meadows. As we neared Grantsburg we  saw over a dozen Trumpeter swans in the fields feeding. We turned around and drove back along a sided road and watched them for a while. It was still early and the fields had not been prepared for spring planting.

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As we drove out along Phantom Lake we noticed some Sandhill Cranes walking along the road. In all we probably saw over 40 Sandhill Cranes on the day.Sandhill-Cranes-Crex-Meadows-16-4-_2733

There were many Trumpeter Swans in the Meadows. This one was nesting right along the road. If it stays on the nest we will have a good view of the young when they hatch. In all we saw over 40 Trumpeter Swans.Trumpeter-Swan-Crex-Meadows-16-4-_2245

As we wove through the Meadows we noticed some dark shapes along the road. It was difficult to see what they were. At first we though maybe bears. As we inched closed they appeared to be Turkeys or Turkey Vultures. When we approached them they took off. It turns out they were Bald Eagles. There were about a half dozen of them in all. We watched them flying around and then noticed the trees were also filled with them. We saw 15 Bald Eagles without moving. Most of them were immature. The one in the middle has quite a bit of red around the head. It appears it man have been feeding on a carcass.Bald-Eagles-Crex-Meadows-16-4-_2310

There were also quite a variety of duck in the water throughout the Meadows.Mallard-Duck-Crex-Meadows-16-4-_2351

Mountain Bluebird – When we are in Custer State Park we like to go out to the airport early in the morning and photograph the nesting Mountain Bluebirds.

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Ruby-throated Hummingbirds – The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds arrive in May and are around most of the summer. For some reason I don’t photography them very frequently. On this particular day I was photographing some other birds when the hummingbird started feeding on a flower right in front of me.

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Sandhill Cranes – I typically photograph Sandhill Cranes at Crex Meadows. However, in the spring when the cranes return I participate in the annual crane count. This show was taken at my count location, Gilbert Creek wildlife area, on a foggy morning.

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Trumpeter Swans – Every winter my wife and I drive over to Hudson, Wisconsin to photograph the Trumpeter Swans and one of the areas of open water on the Saint Croix River.

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Northern Cardinal – One of my favorite activities in the winter is photographing birds during a snowstorm. The Northern Cardinals usually turn up at my feeders early in the morning and late in the evening when the light levels are too low for photography. The exception is during a snow storm when they are frequent visitors.

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On our second visit to Crex Meadows we were able to capture some photos of dancing cranes.

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When photographing Sandhill Cranes at sunrise or sunset it is sometimes interesting to photograph into the sun to catch the beautiful colors in the sky and to create some silhouette photos of flying Sandhill Cranes.

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