I finally got my truck out of the shop after two weeks and made it up to the Ridgefield NWR on Oct. 27,2014. One can experience withdrawal pains waiting this long to go out and photograph birds!
On my first of many trips this day around the 4-mile auto tour, I noticed that the legendary area we refuge locals call the “three-trees” had changed markedly in appearance. One of the three large (closely grouped) trees out in the middle of a large expanse of field, marsh and lakes, had toppled over–probably due to some pretty strong winds we had locally over the weekend. It was good that the tree fell away from the gravel road but it was not so good that this was the best tree of the three for its dead branch perches that were visible when driving a short ways past the tree, then looking back. Many close shots of eagles, hawks, falcons, and even kingfishers have been made over the years at this location by visiting photographers. My last shot at this location was of a Red-tailed Hawk taken Oct. 9, a couple weeks ago. Yeah, it’s just an old rotten tree to many, but to a bird photographer, the loss of these excellent perches to natural elements is something more. Now, I guess it’s the “two-tree” area.
Getting back to today’s photo—As I slowly drove past the downed tree in amazement, to my left, across a small slough only 80 feet away, were two Sandhill Cranes, on the dike that separates Rest Lake from the slough. The grass on the dike covered up the legs of the birds but it was very surprising that they did not fly away (right away). In my eight years (approx. 400 visits) to this refuge, I have never been able to get this close to a Sandhill Crane on the ground. Usually, I’m lucky to get within 200 feet. The birds allowed me to slowly grab my camera and set it up on the bean bag on my truck window frame. I was given a minute and a half to shoot before they finally got their wits about them and took flight. The cars parked a few hundred feet behind me had a great photo flight opportunity as the birds flew toward them.
When I took the shots I didn’t see the little bug, so that’s a bonus in the shot!
Canon 5D Mark III, 1/640, f4, ISO 1600, 500mm, 8:50 a.m.