These guys were at least 200 yards away but they're the closest Cranes that I saw on the ground.
I rolled out of bed this morning at 6:30 and 25°. Since I was in a hurry to get to the Montevista wildlife refuge, it only took me five minutes to get out of my sleeping bag and out the door, but as soon as I hit the frigid air, it reminded me that maybe I ought to get dressed first.
It took me about 45 minutes to get to the wildlife refuge, and on the way there, I spotted herds of Sandhill cranes in some farmer's fields. But there was no place for me to pull over on the two-lane blacktop, and the birds were way out in the field. Nonetheless, I took this as a good sign since I was only a few miles from the refuge.
The refuge has large paved pullovers where dozens of cars can Park and view the birds, but as I drove by, I noticed nobody in them, and I didn't see any birds in the fields. I pulled over at several of the viewing areas and hung around for a while; using my binoculars, I finally spotted some cranes in a farmer's field probably half a mile away.
I tried to take some pictures with an 800 mm telephoto lens, but even with that, I could barely see the birds. And unfortunately, that was the way it was the rest of the morning.
Some Cranes were there at the refuge, but I didn't see a single Crane in the four hours that I ran around that place that was closer to me than a couple hundred yards, and my lack of success taking pictures certainly reflected that. I took about 200 photos this morning and kept 15, and that's a pretty low success ratio even for me.
The only time I saw any cranes that were less than a couple hundred yards away are when they would be flying by, going someplace else. But all the birds I took pictures of on the ground, I had to spot them with binoculars before taking their picture.
So yes, I'm somewhat disappointed in the photographic aspect of taking Crane pictures on this trip. But I've learned a lot, such as, in less you're very, very lucky getting a close-up view of a crane is harder than it looks. But I've enjoyed myself immensely, and I've had a great time searching for the shy but surly Sandhill Cranes.
Right now, I'm spending the night in the Alamosa Walmart parking lot thinking about what I want to do tomorrow. Could I go back to the Montevista refuge and try again? Considering I was the only one there taking pictures of anything its not a great sign for any good luck in the near future. Or I could head on back home, so I don't have to hurry on Thursday to beat the incoming cold front? As usual, I probably won't figure out what to do until I wake up in the morning.
A flock of Canadian Geese heading for parts unknown. Like a lot of Canadians they spend their winters where it's warmer
This is the way I saw most cranes, hundreds of them in farmers fields too far away to get a decent picture.
Early morning Cranes take flight.
The closest I got to the cranes is when they would fly near me, which is why you will see a lot of flying cranes instead of walking cranes.
The loneliest Crane. This is the only Crane that I saw by himself. Since they mate for life, he probably went through a bitter and expensive divorce. He lost the chicks, his job, his winter supply of corn, and most of the other birds he thought were his friends.