Sandhill Cranes form monogamous pair bonds, they mate for life and remain together year around. This pair of 4 feet tall Greater Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) silently forage as they wade a "Crane Pool" at sunrise. Sandhill Cranes spend each night roosting in water safe from coyotes and other predators.
Cranes are a marvel of the avian flight world; they are powerful animals capable of flying at altitudes greater than 20,000 feet. At sunrise, this Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) departs the protection of a partially frozen pond for a day of foraging.
Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) remain calm as thousands of Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens) erupt to flight. I used a shutter speed of 1/15 second to intentionally blur the motion and emphasize the chaos and intensity of the moment.
Flying in formation, a flock of Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) navigate to the safety of their nightly roosting waters. Cranes migrate from the northern breeding grounds during fall and early winter; they congregate in large flocks known as staging grounds.
Walking on Thin Ice
Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) negotiate thin ice as they move to a more suitable take off venue. Cranes are able to gain the momentum necessary for lift off when they move across open water. During my visit to Bosque, it became evident that lifting off from thin ice was not an option. I did observe them taking off on solid ice which was rather comical because they would often slip and slide their way across the ice in a failed attempt to fly.
Once a Crane or two move to a suitable area for taking off, the entire flock slowly follows and gathers on the "runway" prior to flight. Each morning, the Cranes make their way to these pre-flight staging areas; they line up and wait their turn like jets on a runway at a busy airport.
Intent to Fly
The Cranes announce their intention to fly by straightening their necks, leaning forward, and lowering their heads.
Eager to Fly
A pair of Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) ardently preparing for flight as they accelerate across the water gaining adequate speed for lifting their heavy bodies to flight.
At sunrise, a Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) dances across the water in anticipation to fly. Although large and heavy, Cranes are surprisingly elegant and nimble.