In case you might have missed it, we are now officially in May. Hard to believe around here seeing as how it has been like 46, windy and raining most of the week. Couple that with the current administration claiming our economy is hurting because of .. wait for it .. the unusually cold Winter and we officially call Globull Warming a policy of redistribution based on hogwash. But I digress, the real point about mentioning it was May is that it signifies the start a new set of posts (yeah, crowd goes wild!). Calm down, you might scare the bird of the day.
Pretty cool eh? Happened to catch this beautiful specimen walking across our backyard one morning. Believe that? Okay, I lied. This was actually taken while hiking in a remote and dangerous part of Baraboo, Wisconsin. Wow, tough crowd.. so it really wasn’t that remote… or that dangerous … but it WAS just outside of Baraboo Wisconsin so it wasn’t a complete distortion of the truth. Reality is this Blue Crane was taken while visiting The International Crane Foundation (link here). For those not familiar with this particular place, this foundation is focused on saving/restoring the various Crane species throughout the world. They were founded back in 1973 by Ron Sauey and George Archibald. From there they started a journey to conserve the Crane population that was in serious risk throughout the world. They are probably most well known for their ongoing efforts to bring back the Whooping Crane population by creatively employing an ultra-light to help young Cranes migrate from Wisconsin to Florida starting back in 2001. If you are a true birder, you owe it to yourself to make the trip to visit this awesome foundation.
On our first visit up there several years ago (when these pics were taken), we didn’t have very high expectations. Wisconsin didn’t seem like the appropriate place to go check out Cranes. Figured we’d stop by there, walk around the place for a bit and head out – maybe an hour tops. It is stunning how wrong we were – thinking we pulled ourselves out of there after about 3.5 hours and that was because we had other places to be. Not only did they have a number of birds on display, there were a number of habitats that were set up perfectly for photographers – in other words, they provided a means to shoot directly at some of the birds without having to deal with annoying linked fences. The Blue Crane featured here had a nice area complete with muraled walls to provide the illusion of being out in the wild. Each of the areas had some form of grazing area along with a structure they could seek shelter from the sun if needed. I spent a lot of time waiting for the shot above thinking the doorway would provide a natural frame. Decided to do a little more cropping on it to see which I liked better (see first shot). Been back and forth on that, but eventually decided I liked the tighter cropping – any opinions from your perspective?
Here is a shot showing the wall mural – also gives a better impression on the size of the bird. From a Crane perspective, the Blue Crane is on the smaller stature end. They run in the 4 foot and 11 pound range. Yes, I did just say they average 4 foot tall while also stating they are on the SMALLER end of the scale. You haven’t had a true Crane experience until you are staring at one of the species standing nearly at eye level.
Hit the jump to read more about this beautiful Crane!
This bird is actually the national bird of South America and according to the ICF website, they number in the 20 to 21 thousand there .. contrasted with only 60 found in Namibia. It is difficult to really understand their conservation status page (link here), but it looks like they are considered Vulnerable. It does pain me see such unique birds struggling in the wild. Probably why there was no hesitation when we returned to the visitor center and decided to become official members of the Foundation.
The two Blue Cranes on display remained fairly content for the duration of this particular shoot. This was in stark contrast to some of the other Crane species in the neighboring habitats. Guessing you have not been to South Africa and experienced the calls of these Cranes, but you might have had the pleasure of hearing a Sandhill – they are more common in the States. It is absolutely impossible to mistake the sound of a Sandhill Crane – hard to put it in words, but best analogy I can think of is a 20 foot bullfrog.
I was unable to find an exact recording of the Blue Crane but suspect it is similar – maybe less loud due to the smaller stature. One thing I learned while there (one of many things taken away from our visits), is Cranes communicate back and forth with each other. Throughout our time there, there was a ton of discussions going on within the various habitats. Probably making fun of the goofball with the giant glass.
Having drained as much as I could from the ICF website on this fella, I made a quick stop at our friends over at Wikipedia to see what they had to share. First thing I learned is that they are also referred to as Stanley Cranes or Paradise Cranes. Unfortunately, there was no elaboration so either they are often seen using hand tools or something got lost in the African translation when they were referred to it as having two eyes. Oh, and they also listed the wingspan which was around 6 foot – couldn’t locate that tidbit of information on the ICF website.
A cardinal rule in photography is never cut portrait subjects off at the knees. Problem is these birds are so damn big it is hard to really get in close and show both the head and the body at the same time without doing that. As an experiment I went with a few shots like this in the digital darkroom just to see what the effect was.
To be honest, it doesn’t seem that bad. Definitely reduces the effect of the height of these birds, but like the fact you can see the relationship of the head to the rest of the body while still making out the texture details – in this case it looks like wrinkly skin rather than feathers. Compare that to the full shot below where everything smoothes out due to the flattening from the big glass. Of course I got the signature head cross the body shot.
Guess I better bring this post to a close. There will be a number of future posts from this first visit to the ICF. We’ve had the pleasure of being there two more times since then – one of which was just a couple of weeks ago. Each of those visits came back with digital cards full of Crane shots that are just taunting me to get on the blog. Likely going to take some extra elbow grease this month if there is any hope to getting to those more recent shoots before the end of the year. Nothing like a challenge – it is duly noted the Cranes are scratching their heads in utter doubt this can be pulled off.
Just for formalities, all pictures in this set were of “captive” birds.
See Ya’ Soon!