Nature clicks #97 - Sandhill Cranes

Solitary Sandhill Crane
Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM

Yesterday on my way back from Illinois I had a short stopover at the Green Island Wetlands.  The sun was dulled by a thin layer of hazy clouds. Even my slow Sigma 50-500 can deliver in good conditions like that. Nobody was there, I had the whole area for myself. I was already on my way out when I finally got rewarded for my frequent visits and all the time I spent in and around the wildlife refuge lately.

First I saw a solitary Sandhill Crane. There was a water canal between the bird and me but it was the closest I have ever been to a Sandhill Crane. My presence didn't seem to bother the crane and it was searching for food the whole time I was watching.

Pair of Sandhill Cranes
Nikon D300s, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM

After the crane moved slowly further away from the water I moved on. I was already happy with this encounter and the great shooting opportunity. But it became even better. A little further down the trail I discovered a pair of Sandhill Cranes. It was probably the same couple I have seen many times before but never really close. This time all things came together, the light was great, the cranes were close enough for some detail, and no driving by car disturbed my lucky moments.

As you can see their bills were covered with mud. Usually they have their heads deep down while searching for food and I saw the bills going all the way into the mud. While one of the cranes is feeding the other one quite often has its head up and observes the surrounding. This was a rare moment when both Sandhill Cranes stood together with their heads up.