Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sandhill Cranes, a Fleeing Redtail, the TenEck Bald Eagle Nest, and a Staring Deer

I'd been hearing Sandhill Crane calls for some days but hadn't managed to track them down until today.  The male vigilant and the female doing her job of the current moment eating as much as she possibly can before egg laying.
 Female still eating.  Turns out that Sandhill Cranes are a very old species.  9 million year old Sandhill bones have been found and they are virtually identical to the bones of current Sandhills.  Another interesting factoid, the red patch on the top of their heads isn't feathered, it is their skin.

I'd been watching for a few minutes when the pair made obvious eye contact.
Then turned and headed away from the road, my viewing position.  Female still eating and Male still vigilant.  Though late in the day there was still time for a quick check off the Ten Eyc Bald Eagle nest.  Would the eagles continue to use that nest this year?  That is the big question.

On the way, a Red-tailed Hawk high tails it over me and the browsing cows.
And off she goes.
Immediately upon arriving I took 53 pictures from this viewpoint, the least obscured by branches angle, of the TenEck nest in a matter of a couple of minutes.  Some might be asking why?  Well, if the nest is occupied the sitting bird will likely upon a car stopping on this country road, pop her head up for a look.  It may not be a long look, and it isn't as if you can see it happen from this distance so you just have to keep clicking away, hope for the best, and zoom in on each photo when you get home.
TA DA!  And there she is.  See the head shape in the middle of the nest?  This nest is occupied yet again this year.
But I didn't know that then.  I went round to the other side of the nest where the light was better, but the nest further away, and took numerous shots as well.
If I had only taken photographs from the better lit angle, I would see that pale bit and thought, well it could be a head but what is likely the sky beside the "head" looks kind of white as well. A strange reflection off pale part of tree?  I wouldn't have been convinced.  Now I know it is her head.  Interesting that sometimes the more poorly lit and more contrasting the silhouette on a nest, the more telling when attempting to gauge occupation.

On the way back to town, I decide to check the conservation area where I had seen the crane pair earlier.  Last year there was at least two pair who had nests somewhat visible from the road and I want to get as many sightings as possible to try to gauge where nest sites might be this year.  Back I go.

Ordinarily I don't see deer as I'm always looking at tree tops, wires, the sky...looking for birds.  And this time I was looking ground level but on the other side of the road, when I turned my head and practically jumped out of my skin...
There was a doe, no more than 20 feet away, just staring at me.  Eye contact for a long 30 seconds, I raised the camera, click, and...
She bolted, white tail flashing she is running parallel to the fence which isn't in the photo because the road bed is elevated.    I'm attempting to keep up with her in the car...but I can't drive, keep up with her, and take a picture at the same time.
4:09:50 (All times PM) I get even with where she should be and....where did she go?  EARS!
4:09:50 Her ears are poking up from the grass.  See them in crop above? 
 40:09:51 No ears!  I've read  that deer can crawl on their bellies and do  so with alacrity.  I scan over right and start the car rolling that direction.

4:09:53 She leaps over something and there she goes white tail flashing! (Down right of photo)
4:10:47  Where now? The trees are thicker here. I crawl along in the car scanning.
4:11:02 See her coming out from between the trees ahead?
Here's a crop of her from the photo above.  She has obviously leapt the 4  foot fence with ease.
 4:11:02  And in the same second, she springs up the problem.
4:11:03  Her front feet with their dainty hoofs hit the ground.
4:11:03  And in the same second as above she heads across the road.  Note there is a motorcycle that she'd waited to pass just going out of sight and a birdwatcher in a blue jacket watching as well.  And beyond those things unless she wanted to skitter across the fragmented ice of the Mill Race ahead, (see the little bridge) , she needs to cross here.
4:11:04 Across the center line...
4:11:04 ...and half way onto the left embankment mid leap.

4:11:04  She lands down the embankment.
4:11:05 The deer heads into the cover of more numerous trees and heavy brush on this side of the road as opposed to the few trees and marsh grasses on the other side of the road.

If you've never seen a deer run, the expression that someone or something "runs like a deer"  is rather pale compared to the real thing.  It is hyper fast and appears quite effortless.

Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne