Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sand Hill Cranes, Alligators and Kestrels

Thursday morning bright and early, we headed off with Gail and Bill's small bird group to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park so that I could finally get to see Sand Hill Cranes  which sometimes frequent the park in the thousands (but not that day).  There has been a rather severe drought in this area and much of the preserve didn't have its usual water levels including a dried creek bed.  However, there were several of the cranes very close to the path at one point so I took quite a number of pictures!!  They are a magnificent very large bird!  We had hoped that there would be a random Whooping Crane in the bunch but that was not to be.

This is a closeup where you can see the head with his bright red top!

Just hanging out!
Walking away.
A large flock or Sand  Hills flew over and this encouraged the ones in the field to rise up and fly off as well making all sorts of noise as they did it.  Here there is some synchronized flying!

This is a Northern Harrier hawk which we saw quite a bit of.  There was so much light that even though he was really distant, I could get a relatively decent shot!

There were an incredible number of large alligators in what little water there was.  This is the grandpa of the alligators out to sun himself.
It looked like you could walk over the water just on the backs of the alligators.
The Ibis don't seem be be bothered by their fearsome presence nearby!

This is a bird which is quite common down here but not one I had seen before -- an American Kestrel.  Bill pointed him out to me.

This Preserve is famous also for its herds of buffalo, wild cattle and wild horses.  Alas, all we found was the skat (some quite fresh) that they had left on the path (although I am not sure I want to meet a wild buffalo face to face when walking).  The trail was 1 1/2 miles totally in length so it was a good 3 mile walk for the day.  The weather has been gorgeous for doing things outdoors -- not too hot and not too cold!!

On the way back home (after a great lunch at the 43st Deli), Gail and Bill stopped by a place in their community which is frequented by Red Headed Woodpeckers.  This one is just outside its hole.  He posed for quite a few pictures.

In contrast to the above picture, one of the first birds we saw at Paynes Prairie was a Red Bellied Woodpecker which also has a red head like the one above but which whose plumage otherwise is much different!  It took me forever to see this bird as it helps if you are looking at the right pole! There are a lot of this bird at Gail and Bill's bird feeder each morning.  I can remember them at our feeder in NY as well.

1 comment:

CC said...

I love your blog and your nature-inspired artwork! Keep up the good work! :o)