Monday, November 19, 2007

Sandhill Cranes

Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

After talking about Sandhill Cranes for almost a year now, on Sunday afternoon I met Donna at her place in Sundown. From there we drove 30 miles to the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, where they say up to 100,000 cranes spend the winter.

Arriving an hour and half before sunset, we went to all three playas* and were disappointed that we saw no cranes. Not a hundred thousand, not a thousand, not even one. Donna vowed that even if she didn't get any pictures of (expletive) birds, she was, by golly, going to bring home pictures anyway. So we walked around, taking pictures of grasses and the beautiful scenery as the evening began turning first that golden color, then taking on a pink hue.

In that half an hour before sunset, we began hearing honking. Looking overhead, there were formations of birds, just a few groups at first, heading west. As evening closed in -- it seemed like time expanded so each minute lasted longer than a minute -- more and more formations came in, with more and more honking. While the slow minutes passed, all around us, in every direction in the sky, there were silhouettes of flocks of cranes flying in for the night. Donna and I stood awed, knowing that though we clicked away with our cameras, we were likely not getting quality pictures in that light. Many times we simply stood still and breathed in the beauty.

During the last moments of twilight, I was standing alone when a quiet flock flew directly overhead. There was nothing to do but experience it. Tears came to my eyes when I realized I could hear the whooshing sound of all those wings in unison and nothing else. I went over to share with Donna, and when got there saw she already had that expression, that of exultation, on her face.

* Playa, n. Flat-bottomed depression that is periodically covered by water. Playas occur in interior desert basins and adjacent to coasts in arid and semiarid regions. The water that periodically covers the playa slowly filters into the groundwater system or evaporates into the atmosphere, causing the deposition of salt, sand, and mud along the bottom and around the edges of the depression.

This last picture is the only one of the grounded cranes I got. They are standing on a dry part of the playa, made white by all the salt deposits. I'm sure eventually there were thousands of them together, just not enough light to photograph them. Cranes stand about 4 feet tall and have a wing span of 10 feet. Impressive, beautiful birds by any measure.


Bev said...

Er, Debi, what can I say? Thanks for sharing!

Bobbie said...




Rima said...

Impressive, beautiful photography by any measure as well. Lovely - and awe-inspiring.

Debi said...

I'm glad y'all enjoyed the cranes. I wish I could have taken you all with me. It was incredible.

Watch Donna's blog for more pictures of them this winter, I'm sure. She's been calculating how to get back over there and how to get the best pictures of them. (Wee hours of the morning, we figure.)

Neda said...

Debi, you are so lucky to live so close to nature and we are luckier that you bring it into our living room. This was one magnificent afternoon! Would you consider sending your photographs to National Geographic or Nature mags? You deserve to be recognized!!!!

Bobbie said...

I was just thinking that you qualify for your own handmade National Geographic hat!

Lisa Sarsfield said...

Wow, snap the last 2 posts! I was gonna say that it was a very 'national geographic' shot and I see I have been beaten to it! These pics are beautiful and your text made me feel like I was just about there too. I have a very limited zoom on my camera and I am looking to get one with a better zoom and macro- not a 15cm like my current one! You have an obvious talent and your so lucky to have a camera worth of it! Looking forward to more if your posts!

Debi said...

Neda, Mom, and Lisa...I am utterly humbled. I think I'm at the homemade National Geographic hat stage, but not the real one yet.

Homemade National Geographic hat? That's what my grandmother made herself once and why my mom mentioned it. It was cute, immodest, and like so many things my grandmother did, funny.

dianeclancy said...

Hi Debi,

This is great!! I love the first one the best (got a little of that pink and orange for the tattoo shop).

But I am very curious now which is the brash and luster??

~ Diane Clancy