I stumbled on to this sandhill crane family walking down the trail at Circle B Bar Reserve in early March. The parents were teaching the babies how to look for bugs and eat them. A few people were standing by but the parents did not seem to mind. As long as you didn’t get too close they just went on their way. I sat down on the trail to get the pictures and several times I had to get up and move back since they were walking right towards me. It looks like lunch was mostly dragonflies.
The 2 above were taken with my cell phone. They were too close to get with my camera and if I tried to move back any farther I would end up in the swamp. They strutted down the trail for while before heading back out into the marsh.
I had read that there was a new sandhill crane family at Circle B Bar Reserve. As soon as Pam and I walked out on the trail, we saw them slowly making their way towards us. The little babies were so cute. One was much younger than the other. Maybe by a few days.
The smaller one was all wet. They must have been in the marsh.
He looked tired and plopped down for a rest while the parents and older sibling were looking for food. Pam said “I wonder if there’s anything wrong with him. He looks bad.” I didn’t think anything of it. Maybe he was just tired since he was younger.
The oldest sibling stayed close the parent and was getting fed a few bugs.
They looks so funny, all wet.
The parents started cruising down the trail and closer into the marsh. I started taking pictures of a flock of vultures close by that were eating a turtle.
I looked over a few minutes later and noticed both babies were down in marsh and it looked like they were playing. The above and below were extremely cropped.
After a while we realized the older baby was hitting the younger one on the head with his beak. He was pulling out fuzz. At that point we realized that the older one was attacking the younger one. We stood there at a loss of what to do. We took a few steps closer into the marsh but the parents came towards us and seemed to be guarding what was going on down there. Do we risk getting eaten by an alligator or poked in the head by a parent sandhill crane? The parents were watching us and would move towards us if we moved towards the babies. The family started to move on and we thought maybe the little one would be okay, maybe the older one was just play fighting a little too hard.
We headed down the trail and a few hours later, we stopped by that same area and the entire family was gone. We thought they must have kept going and that the baby was okay. Later that night I had read on the Circle B Bar Facebook group that someone had seen the little one alone on the trail. The parents and older sibling had eventually left him behind. A ranger was called and she rescued the baby and took it to a bird rehab facility. The baby did not survive. Apparently this is common in sandhill crane families like it is in other birds such as eagles and hawks. I have seen a mother snowy egret drop the youngest of her 3 babies into the alligator pond at Gatorland so I shouldn’t be shocked but it is still sad.
If you need some cheering up after that, check out Jess’s blog. She was recently able to get pictures of a sandhill crane coming out of the egg. So cute!
Here’s mom with a dirty beak. Always keeping her eye out for any birds of prey flying around in the sky.
Yummy bug for breakfast!
Taking turns eating.
“I get the next bug.” “No, it’s mine.”
“Mom, there’s not a bug under my butt.”
“I hate being wet, don’t you?”
“This stick does not taste good.”
Coming back down the trail later, I saw this. It feels like these people are too close. I know the birds are pretty tame and use to people being on the trail but can they get too tame? Most people were across the trail from the babies and the babies were running around being curious and walking right up to people. I heard later that one of the babies sat down on a person’s foot. I know the guy above in the middle had a 500mm lens but chose to use his short lens and sit really close to them. Families were walking right up to them and taking pictures with their camera phones. The cranes could just leave and head out into the marsh but that marsh is full of mean and hungry alligators so I think it’s better if they stay on the trails but I felt a little off that people were getting so close. I only had my fixed 300mm so I kept having to get up and move back. Maybe the crowds of people will keep the hawks and eagles away. Anyway, they were so cute and fuzzy. And funny and curious. They picked up every stick and checked out every bug. I took a ton of pictures so I’ll post more later.