Elegance on Ice
A very special place for critters, birds, Sandhill Cranes, in particular, is Bosque del Apache NWR. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been coming here forever and this week being here with dear friends is extra special. Sandhill Cranes are an amazing bird coming to Bosque to overwinter, storing up reserves to make the flight back north in the spring to raise the next generation. Their biology at Bosque is pretty straightforward, eat, eat, eat and not be eaten. They roost at night is the very shallow ponds so the approach of predators can easily be heard, then head to the fields during the day to forage. They do all of this with amazing grace and elegance … except ….
Those shallow ponds that afford the Cranes a prewarning can turn this otherwise elegant birds into a comedy act. There are mornings like this morning when the air temp gets down there (13 degrees this AM) and a surface layer of ice forms. It’s not so thick that the Cranes are frozen in place but frozen enough they can walk on it and it leaves a ring of ice around their legs. Now to get airborne, the Cranes have to take a few running steps which, with their long legs is easy in the shallow water. But when there is ice, that can’t gain any traction and that’s when their elegance goes out the window and they seem to know it. You can see them look around, you know that look of “hope no one is watching” as they take that first step. That’s the fun to try to photograph. This morning was full of that kind of fun which what makes wildlife photography so enjoyable!