Thursday, April 10, 2014

Back to open skies....

After spending the night on the bank of the Platte River with more than a 100,000 sandhill cranes roosting nearby, we decided to visit the Black Hills of South Dakota.

It was only about 400 miles, but might as well have been a world away. Here my son's walking on the plains under billowing clouds in Custer State Park.
These prairie and cloud photos are what I was hoping to get while we were there.
While I was making these images the wind kicked up and was gusting at more than 30mph.
I stashed my hat in my camera bag before it blew away and kept shooting until I lost the sun to a hazy western sky.
A herd of grazing bison.

The sun had disappeared shortly after that bison shot, so I felt really lucky when sunset turned out like this.
It wasn't a sky full of color, but by isolating the clouds that were catching some light and silhouetting the hills it worked.
We stayed until well after sunset and made the most of the light.
Once the light disappeared we sat on a rock rubbed smooth by bison and took it all in. Then I put the cameras away and it was time to start our 12 hour drive back to Wisconsin.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring migration.....

Every year hundreds of thousands of lesser sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) migrate from points in Mexico and the southern U.S. north as far as Alaska and Eastern Siberia.
During their migration the Platte River in Nebraska serves as an important stopover for the cranes.
The river is shallow with many sandbars which the cranes use to safely roost at night.
Every evening just as the sun goes down thousands of cranes fly from nearby farm fields and wetlands back to the river to roost.
There is a cacophony of sound as so many birds talk and call as they come back to the river.
It was sunny and windy on the afternoon I arrived at the Platte River. I had reserved a photo blind at the Rowe Sanctuary so I would have a better chance to photograph the birds, and would be able to stay overnight on the bank of the river.
The sound of more than 100,000 cranes talking on the roost just outside lulled me to sleep.
I woke at 5:45am and the river was shrouded in a heavy fog as rain and sleet fell. I waited for sunrise and hoped for some light. The cranes weren't in a hurry to leave the roost, though about half of them flew off in small groups of two to twenty birds over the next few hours.
Then just before 10am the rest of the cranes took flight. The sound of so many wings flapping and tens of thousands of birds calling filled the air. It truly was a feast for the senses, and something not to be missed. If you ever get the chance to spend some time along the Platte River in Nebraska during the spring crane migration, make sure that you do.