Monday, January 16, 2017


Last Saturday, we were driving down a fairly busy road near our house, a side road to the interstate, when my husband glanced off the side of a bridge, into a marshy area, and said, startled, "What are those?!"  I didn't even see what he saw at first.  (His eye and ear have always been much better than mine.)  We turned around and drove slowly by, a couple of times.  We couldn't just stop because the road was too busy - not hugely, but almost always a car coming in the distance.  I pulled out my camera and felt fortunate to get this shot, because at that level of zoom it's hard to hold the camera still enough, without a tripod, to get a decent picture.

They are sandhill cranes, a species that does not flag on eBird as "rare" in our area (it does in the eastern part of the state), but nevertheless is unusual.  We are to the east of the easternmost flyway of this huge bird.

We saw hundreds of these birds at a wildlife refuge in Alabama a few years ago.  They are easily identified by the red on the face.  They are tall, grey birds - much more common overall than the very rare whooping cranes, just not common in our area.

A few years ago we saw a Ross's goose at the edge of the lake we live near.  I was sure that's what it was by studying the field guide, but was insistent that "They're not supposed to be here."  Mike patiently reminded me, "Ann.  They are wild birds.  They can go wherever they want to go.  They're not bound by field guides and range maps."  Well, yes, I guess he's right.

That's why sometimes rare and unusual birds hang around for weeks at a time in various places; other times, they are spotted once and that's it.  That's why the farm ponds where we love to go observing are sometimes filled with ducks and unusual birds - and other times, even in mid-winter when they should be very busy, are very quiet.  The birds aren't saying "Oh, it's January - we should be there."  They go where they want to.  They're wild.

Sometimes it would be nice to be a bird.

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