Sunday, October 31, 2010
The waning crescent moon was like a white jewel in the darkest part of the dawn sky. Sandhill Cranes were waking and adding their bugling to the dawn chorus of sparrows, finches, and blackbirds.
As the sun's bright orange disc crept over the horizon, goldenrod helped render long shadows across the prairie. Overhead, I could hear calls of Eastern Bluebirds, Lapland Longspurs, and Horned Larks.
Most everything at ground level was covered in exquisite patterns of frozen crystals. After last night's northerly winds, there seemed to be fewer Fox Sparrows, but I could hear at least one singing from the dogwood.
Making my way down the gravel path toward the song, I spotted an adult White-crowned Sparrow probing the sand with its beak; its feathers were fluffed out in order to warm itself in the morning sun. I occasionally find White-crowned Sparrows at the prairie in the dead of winter. Is this as far south as this one will travel?
I've seen its kind endure the worst Wisconsin blizzards with stinging winds that virtually blow them across the snowscape. I wonder if this one will stay and try and make a go of it. I will imagine, if I see one this winter here, that it might be the same bird.
Clear skies gave way to wave-like clouds, causing the sunlight to come and go every few minutes or so, which increased the challenge of my photography interests. Adjacent to the prairie, a group of Sandhill Cranes assembled in an agricultural field; there were several adults and a few colts. While they didn't seem to mind my approaching them, I could tell they were keeping a sharp eye on me.
I thought about the new (and proposed) hunting seasons in Minnesota and Tennessee for cranes. Gee, if it's this easy for me to walk up and photograph them, then making a sport of killing them seems pretty senseless. I wonder if I should have frightened them away.
All images © 2010 Mike McDowell