Monday, January 12, 2009

More Crane Madness

Georgia and I went for a walk on Payne's Prairie this weekend. It was a blustery, miserable day, but tons of people were walking the La Chua trail because of the cranes.

Thousands of sandhill cranes have migrated down from northern parts to gather on the prairie (with native, non-migrating sandhills, which are a distinct but identical-looking subspecies) and eat insects, grubs, and frogs. They also spend a lot of time just standing around, talking to each other. If you click on this photo you can see a small fraction of the crowd that was there.

The photo also features two endangered whooping cranes, which hang out with the sandhills. There are only about thirty year-round whooping crane Florida residents -- and just 350 total wild whoopers in the wild. Of these, 68 of these migrate from Wisconsin to Florida every year (the juveniles with the guidance of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership), and the rest fly from northwest Canada to winter on the Texas coast.

The noise of the crane conference was unbelievable. But my favorite part of the visit was watching the sandhills land. They're a strange combination of elegant and goofy. When they're coming down from a flight, they're stretched parallel to the ground, with their long legs stretched behind them. Then, about fifty feet above the ground, they lower their legs like landing gear. Multiple cranes flying next to each other do this almost in unison. Thus they approach the ground, looking extremely intent and somewhat fragile. It makes me smile every time.

The prairie looked stark and beautiful that day.

Of course, there are always some wet areas.

The other interesting thing that happened that day was that there was a huge water moccasin parked next to the trail. All these people kept warning us about it. Yet those same people stood ten feet away from the snake, taking photographs and loudly talking about it. The snake did not look happy.

Me, I took a photo and then walked past it unmolested, on the other side of the trail.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Crane Madness!

Some sandhill cranes have been hanging out all week in the fields next to my work building. Here they are crossing the road.

By the USDA greenhouses.

They eyed us warily as we drove past them on our way to lunch.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Fishing with John

I went out to Emily's farm this weekend to do some fishin'. It was uber-dry, since we're several years into a drought. (I think we're thirty-some inches below normal.)

That little pond in the background is the last wet area of a huge lake. John says it's a sinkhole that never dries up. That's where we caught a bunch of bottom feeders (catfish). People other than me ate them later.

Also! Genuine alligator faysays sighting! This turd is about the length of an adult finger. Who knew alligator poop was so white? The alligator that begat this one is rumored to be 10 feet long.

Here's a photo from closer up.

That day I also saw tons of sandhill cranes and even a whooping crane! Two sandhills are pictured below, stalking insects and grubs in the farm fields.

The whooping crane was flying away from me, and I didn't get a photo. Sandhill cranes have the most beautiful call. Then again, so do whooping cranes -- I heard one last year on the prairie.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bike Ride

We've had amazing weather for weeks -- 80s and sunny as heck. I went with Kim on a bike ride on the Hawthorne Rail Trail the other day. It was so beautiful. I forgot my camera, but she brought her new iPhone (envy!), and sent me this photo. That dark blob on the right is my face. No one ever said phones have the best cameras in the world.

I'm going to take some photos of my plants and try to start blogging about gardening again soon. Happy New Year!