Last Friday I went up to do Duluth for a workshop. I was only there for the day and thought that I would stop by Crex Meadows on my way home since it's somewhat on the way to the Twin Cities. Usually April can be a great time for ducks...but the migration is a little weird this year and I think the ducks may have already moved through, I didn't see too much. It was incredibly busy while I was there, so if there were many ducks, I'm sure they were tucked in some vegetation.
But there is always something fun to be found at Crex Meadows--quite a few pairs of trumpeter swans nest there and it's a great place to watch them. I found 2 swans with neck bands and turned the band numbers in to the BBL. I like Crex because you have the option of walking trails or you can do the wildlife drive and if you want photos, you can use your car as a blind. I have a window mount for my scope so it works fairly well. Birds usually don't mind cars, but they do seem to mind the things that come out of them.
There were a few ducks out and about--here's one of about a dozen blue-winged teal that were working the waters. There were a few wood ducks and Canada geese as well. Even though I was using my car for a blind, the wind was still harsh and it was a challenge to get clear photos. As I eased my way down the gravel road, I thought I about calling it quits early.
I was loving the light for photos but the wind was too much and there weren't too many birds. Then some movement in the reeds caught my eye. The movement was in the reeds in the middle of the photo (in front of the large beaver dam). It was a pair of sandhill cranes--do you see 'em? I can't in this photo either, so here are some digiscoped images:
The cranes worked their shape and color to hide in the dried cattails as they tried to figure out if I was a threat to them. The larger crane kept a good eye on me while the smaller crane continued to forage and I think work on a nest.
Even though the cranes were so close, it was still a challenge to get photos because of the tall vegetation blocking them (and the wind continually moving the old cattails). Doh.
The cranes eventually continued their foraging and when their heads were down, I would slowly creep my car into a new position to try and get a clear shot but the above photo is one of about 500 partially blocked cranes. Doh some more.
Even though I was getting crane blocked with my shots, I did like some of the photo and the weird colors and shapes I picked up. I love how the eye is practically glowing orange next to that red skin patch.
Eventually, I did get a few shots of one of the cranes completely unblocked in the face--lovely sandhill crane. It was fun to just watch a pair and not several thousand like I usually do in Nebraska. Check out those brown feathers--those are not the color those feathers grew in, cranes rub dirt on their feathers and stain them.
Eventually the cranes came out of the vegetation and began foraging in the water and even called a few times--again strange to see two and not thousands making noise.
They were absolutely gorgeous in the late afternoon sun.
The wind was still going strong and a few times it even interfered with the cranes gracefulness. Got to be hard to be so tall and lanky on a wind swept pool of shallow water. I didn't get a huge variety of birds, but all in all, the stop at Crex to watch the cranes was well worth it.
I noticed a couple of osprey flying around Crex but was surprised to find that one of their nesting platforms will not be available this year. A pair of bald eagles too it over--right out in the open.
I'll have to remember to go back during warbler season. In the past, I have had some GREAT warbler days here. Although, with how much the trees have leafed out already, I think actually seeing warblers will be a challenge this year. They are going to be well hidden in the canopy when they pass through.