Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bird of the Day: Sandhill Cranes at the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge

What a sweet day. I've been hoping to get some close-up shots of the Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) that are wintering over in the San Joaquin and San Luis National Wildlife Refuges. They have (most appropriately) been wary of humans and have stayed at a distance at the times I've visited the refuges over the last few months.
There was just the smallest spritz of a storm today, no measurable rain, but the breezes blew out the fog and it turned into a mostly sunny day. I had an hour to spare in the late afternoon, so I thought I would head out to the Beckwith Road viewing platform at the north end of the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge just west of Modesto. 
There was little going on near the platform, but I could see a flock of the cranes off to the west right next to the highway. There was a pullout, and since I never got out of the car, none of the birds got spooked. The refuges point out that cars make fine bird blinds and it tends to be true. The cranes continued searching for tidbits among the cornstalks, and I finally had a chance to get some fairly close shots.
There were some clouds, and the sun was low in the sky, so there were still some challenges getting sharp shots, but I was pleased with most of the results today. If they were perfect, I wouldn't have a good excuse to head out there again!
There were several other geese foraging with the cranes (below). They'll probably get their own post before too long.
The Sandhills gather by the tens of thousands in our local refuges during the winter months (See a short video of some of them in this post). It's not that long before they start heading north again. I'm glad I had a chance to see them up close!
Beautiful elegant birds!
I will be missing them when summer comes around. All the years I've lived in this area, and I never knew until just over a year ago that they were living just a few miles away from my college. I hate being ignorant, and need to do whatever I can to avoid it!

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