Much as I would love to get rid of Facebook most days, I can’t abandon the bird photography group where I’m a lurking member. I lurk because I have little to contribute aside from “loves” and questions. These people have giant cameras and a penchant for being in the woods at the crack of dawn. Their pictures are detailed, up close, and dramatic. I love them. I also love that this group gives me guidance on spots to visit.
Thanks to the group’s posts, I got to witness two major- major to me- birds in December: Sandhill cranes and a Snowy Owl. When I woke up to a post naming a specific pond in a specific metro park as a gathering point for a large group of Sandhill Cranes, I got Adventure Buddy on the road and headed out.
We had a short hike out to the site, but we got to observe the eagles’ nest on the way. The male was hanging out in a dead tree and the female was poised on the nest. A birder with a bigger camera said that they had just added another branch to the nest.
Of course, common songbirds are just as exciting and capable of dramatic poses, and far away swans are lovely too.
When we cleared the woods at the edge of the pond, it took a moment to spot the cranes. The largest portion were blending into the water’s edge and more were wandering through the grasses. We counted over twenty. At one point, a crane sounded the alarm or yelled, “everybody into the pool!” and the group in the grasses formed a conga line back to the pond.
Walking back to the car, we heard a crane call from another part of the park. Two rebels had broken off from the larger group and were conveniently hanging out by the duck blinds, but calling back to the large group.
I’d love to make it to one of the spots where hundreds of Sandhill Cranes land together during migrations.
However I have mixed feelings about the Snowy Owl.
Much of what I know about Snowy Owls comes from a series of posts by Julie Zickefoose an artist and naturalist from my home town area. Julie covered the story of a Snowy Owl that landed in a busy urban area, was injured, starving, and eventually captured for rehabilitation. Her photographs and first hand knowledge make a trip to her site worthwhile.
Snowy Owls show up in Ohio because they are juveniles who have been pushed out of their territory, oddly enough, due to an overabundance of food when they were hatched. They show up here, people swarm to experience the magic, and the owl potentially starves or encounters things like cars and electrical wires that are not a part of their habitat.
(My pictures are as zoomed in as possible with my camera and then extremely cropped during editing. With the naked eye, we basically were looking at a white blob against the rocks while visiting to maintain distance.)
The group posted and the local paper wrote articles about the owl’s location. Selfishly, I could not resist the opportunity to see it: Harry Potter’s Hedwig. While we were there, photographers came and went, staying back. Others had reported seeing the owl hunt in a nearby field. Of all the possible spots, it ended up at a large lake and wooded park so maybe there is hope for it.
Fluffy, feathery hope after cleaning its talons.