Long lens close-ups

The Canada geese in the area are herding their goslings around showing them the ropes on survival.  It’s fun to watch the adults try to threaten a big car with hissing and advancing motion while the young blithely wander around poking their noses into everything.  In general, though, mom and dad keep the group together and moving in the same direction.

It was an overcast, rainy day and the goslings were in the tall grass, either stripping the water drops off the leaves or picking at the grass itself.

I was using a 300mm lens for my OM-1 film camera on my digital camera, shooting out the car window.  The geese were so close at times I had to wait until they walked out of my close-focus point.  It was great to be able to fill the image with the birds but handholding a long lens like this (and manually focusing) meant the images aren’t as sharp as I’d like.  Still, you can see details on them nicely.

Whenever the parents felt we’d gotten too close or had seen enough, they herded the goslings further into the grass.  With all the rain we’ve gotten the stems were tall enough to easily hide the young birds, although a few of them still were curious about all the fuss.

We expected to see sandhill cranes in this area as they use it for feeding and nesting.  And sure enough, we saw one walking along the side of the road in the grass.  He pretty much let us coast along beside him while he nosed around for bugs and periodically called out to see if anyone was in the area.  Although this was our only sandhill crane we did see a cousin.

At a nearby visitor’s center we heard a whooping crane had been sighted so we drove off in that direction hoping for the best.  Luckily, the bird was still in the field so we got to see one of our most endangered birds, just wandering around in a field behind a farm house.  What a great opportunity for us to see the “other” American crane.

We learned later whooping cranes have been transplanted to Wisconsin but the efforts are not going well.  The percentage of successful nesting and raising of young is very small.  One surprising issue is the black fly population, which harasses the adults so much they leave the nest and eggs behind.  A tactic managers are using is to get to the nest soon after the eggs are laid and remove them to be hatched by humans.  The birds will apparently lay more eggs later, which is after the black fly population drops off.  Sometimes even evolution needs a hand….

A few things about this image.  It’s an extreme crop of an image made with the 300mm lens resting on the window of my car so it’s nowhere as sharp as I’d wish for such a great occasion.  But, you use what you got as best possible.  Also, see the bird on the right?  From other images it’s obviously a crane but I can’t find anything online about whooping or sandhill cranes being this black at any stage in their life.  Either it’s been rolling in mud or it’s some other type of plumage.  Finally, if you look closely behind the white whooping crane, about an inch in this image, you’ll see a little orange spot.  This is the head of a chick that followed the adult around.  At the distance we were from the birds it was invisible – I only noticed it when zooming in on the images in Photoshop.  Hopefully this will be one of the chicks that make it to adulthood!


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