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Photographing the Sand Hill Cranes in Southern Indiana

As I was planning my retirement bucket list over a year ago, one of the items was to photograph the Sand Hill Cranes. Having met my wife, Linda, in Nebraska, I knew there was a huge gathering of Sand Hill Cranes along the Platte River, so I started doing my research including places to stay. Then, I discovered there were thousands of cranes about an hour east of me in Indiana. Seems they winter along the East Fork of the White River. I was waiting the four weeks after my surgery so that I could carry my camera bag (was not supposed to lift anything greater than 10lbs). Then, I got a bad sinus infection that delayed me another week. I had my planning and maps ready for yesterday morning. The “mostly sunny” skies turned gray with snow flurries. I kept an eye on several cloud cover websites all morning. Around 11, the skies cleared and I jumped in my car that was packed except for food and my camera bag. I was a little hesitant as the various weather reports had the river flood stage at 11.8 feet and it was at 12 plus feet when I left. One road was slightly (4”) under water, but I watched two cars go through and decided I could make it. By the time I finished shooting about 3 hours later most of the roads were partially or mostly covered in some areas.
These three photos are my favorites. It was fascinating watching the cranes as they do a crazy dance. It appears they pick something up in one of the puddles of water (not river flooding, but from the rain), toss it in the air, and then start jumping. Linda thinks it might be a courting dance. I think it is a “Gads, I cannot believe I put that awful tasting thing in mouth. OOOOOOO.”



I was traveling along country roads with maybe a 12” shoulder. So, I just pulled over and hoped no other travelers would complain (in another state, they would sit behind me and honk even though there was plenty of room and visibility to pass). One woman with an Audubon sticker on her car stopped and talked to me for quite a while at my first stop. She gave me directions to some other locations with more cranes and told me where to find some owls at dusk. Another guy stopped in his big pickup and apologized if he ruined my shot while driving by (nope, stirred them up some which helped). He also gave me detailed directions to other places to shoot when he found I was not from the immediate area. It is good to be back in Indiana where folks are courteous and friendly on the backroads!
It was around 32 degrees and windy most of the afternoon and my fingers were cold. But, I will go again in a few days and hope to also find some trumpeter swans.


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