birds, Cranes, life, nature, Uncategorized

Sandhill Cranes, the shrinking violet…

I had watched the sandhill crane family out on the lake in the backyard since before the chicks were hatched.  I came to many uneducated conclusions about the crane family life based on what I was seeing.  Putting a human spin on things, or at least what I’ve gleaned from raising kids and pets.  Of the two chicks one was always puffing out his chest and flapping his little nubs of wings right from go.  A boy, I concluded.  The other little chick seemed to stick with mom (another assumption,which was mom and which was dad), and I saw her as obedient and lady-like.  Dainty even.

Flash forward four months, months in which I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to her because her maniac of a brother (even I am rolling my eyes here) had stolen the show.  Until the whole family was out on the lake a couple of weeks ago, and, as usual, I wasn’t paying particular attention to her until I heard a commotion…

cranevshawk1cranevshawk7cranevshawk6cranevshawk4cranevshawk3cranevshawk2She flushed out a hawk!  None of the others seemed to think she needed any help either.  She is feistier than I thought…

birds, Cranes, healing, nature, photography

Sandhill Cranes #8, the Comeback Kid

Although I saw the rest of the family several times in the next couple of days, including the first sighting of the other colt flying as you see above, it took four days to see our wounded one with the family.  I thought he looked terrible, sitting down, but with one of the parents close by.  I was running an errand and had a deadline but I was very upset and thought I had to do something!  So I called a bird sanctuary. I guess I thought they’d swoop in and rescue him since I knew where he was.  The woman assured me that this entire area is a protected area and there is no better place for him to be.  That he was with the family was key, because they were still feeding him and taking care of him.  “Be my eyes”, she said.  Try to see if he is alert to his surroundings, is he pecking at his wing as if he is trying to make it go away?  She said it could be just a sprain.  If they X-ray him and it’s a break involving more than one joint he would automatically be euthanized.  He can live 20 years and have a family of his own, she said.  He is better of with his family.  I don’t know if I was convinced.  The first sighting…woundedsighting

Then four days later, looking better…lookingbetter

I saw them a couple of days later all together but couldn’t get a picture, but on May 30th all four showed up at my lake again.  A neighbor had put bread out and I saw the mom feeding the other colt, but our wounded one was wandering off to a pool of water to take a dip, which they all did eventually.  Then they did a lot of shaking off of the water, and readjusting their feathers…

And then I saw our wounded boy move his wing.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief…hemoveshiswing

Then 13 days later here he is…june12boy

And that’s the story.  How did I think I would end it, with ‘they all lived happily ever after’?  It was never going to be possible to know what became of each of them.  I’ve seen the rest of the family several times, without our boy.  If he is on his own when I’m seeing the other three then he certainly is in better shape than when he first hurt the wing and wasn’t with them.  I think/hope I’ll see them together again here and there since they stay with the parents for 9 to 10 months.  Of course I want him to heal, but if he keeps that ‘dent’ in his shoulder then I may be able to pick him out even when he gets the red coloring on his head.  I just realized, they are four months old today…


birds, Cranes, life, nature, photography

The Dance of the Sandhill Cranes…

When last we saw the cranes they were heading off the lake, the wounded colt in the lead, but the rest of the family following a short distance behind.  I thought they had tried to drive him off, but maybe they hadn’t given up on him quite yet?  I know that nature provides these instincts to ensure the survival of the fittest, but my front-row seat to this twist of the story upset me greatly.

The very next morning there were three cranes out there, two adults and a colt.  Now I was convinced that the family of three I had been seeing was ‘my’ family minus our wounded one, so I was upset.  I had gone out with my camera and tripod, but the thought of the other colt on his own was so sad that I was mad at them, had to be mad at somebody, and decided to go back inside and not take any pictures at all.

Then they started to dance… bowing,


and jumping…

And I set up the camera and took pictures, but I wasn’t happy about it.

courage, Father's, Father's Day, honor, responsibility, soldiers

Hell On Wheels

This is the map that chronicles the path that Patton’s army, my father’s unit, took during WW2.  The map made it home from the war before my father did.  My mother said that it cost her $12, a lot of money, to have it framed, and it was hanging on the wall when my father came home.

I loved the map as a kid, when I was too young to really understand what it represented. I used to point to the town in France where my father was shot, but not returned home since it was ‘only’ a shoulder wound.  I liked to trace the cross-shaped scar with my finger, another momento of the war that I didn’t fully understand.

When my mother was downsizing to move into senior housing she gave this map to me.  Then when she visited me she didn’t see it hanging on the wall and asked where it was.  So I took her to our dental office where it was prominently displayed in the waiting room.  She was proud to see it hanging there.  Lots of conversations were sparked by that map hanging there.  The image that is burned in my head though, is walking into the waiting room and seeing a little old man, a patient, standing on one of the wooden waiting room chairs facing the map, only a foot or so from it, studying it close up.

Another patient’s name was on a plaque at the neighborhood Catholic church honoring the local heroes who were killed in action during the war.  He actually was a POW and returned, but his name stayed on the plaque.

I’m remembering being at BWI airport in Baltimore when the passengers on an honor flight disembarked and entered the terminal.  Little elderly men in matching t-shirts, most being wheeled in wheelchairs powered by escorts also in matching t-shirts.  Everyone stopped, and clapped as they rolled by.  Tears flowed.  Little elderly men, the kind that you tolerate when they are telling you a long-winded story the details of which you didn’t grasp because you really weren’t paying attention, who saw things we of younger generations could not imagine.

My mother and I attended my son Michael’s graduation from Air Force boot camp quite a few years ago now..  We attended church with all the young, clean cut, beautiful, ‘kids’, who would take the place of those elderly former soldiers.  There was much hilarious teasing of the cadets who were in various stages of their training.  My mother and I laughed so hard we cried.  Then they asked for all the veterans in the church to stand up, and they did.  Some stood at attention in military uniforms having made a career out of serving our country, but they were far out numbered by the t-shirt wearing, pot-bellied, Dads, there to see their sons, and daughters too, be sworn in to serve their country.  Those young people leaped to their feet and cheered with all their might, honoring those men who served just as they were about to serve.  Now my mother and I were crying for real.

My father was the proverbial ‘nice guy’.  I loved him dearly, as did everyone who knew him. He never talked about the war, wasn’t much of a talker at all really.  But one thing he did say was that he’d really like to have a grandson named Mike.  Glad I gave you that Dad.

Happy Father’s Day.



Sandhill cranes #7, what next?


I have to laugh at myself. At my disappointment over the cranes being off the nest and ending a major source of my own entertainment.  And purpose if you will, since I was so emotionally invested in their story. But despite the absence of ‘my’ family there seemed to be even more crane activity than ever on the lake. I saw single cranes, pairs of cranes, groups of four, which always sent me for my camera so I could look through the zoom lens and see if any of them were still yellow-headed. Even six at once. And it wasn’t a challenge to know there were cranes out there because they made a lot of noise, they weren’t shy. I suspect that a lot of these cranes hadn’t mated yet, but they were definitely interested. Things were hopping out there.

Turns out the family might be off the nest but they were not out of the neighborhood.  It took a week, but they came back, coming down from the pond on the next street as if they hadn’t missed a beat.  It was good to know they were together, and I hoped that even if I didn’t see them daily that I’d see them enough to know that they were okay.  Which is what happened.  Over the next two weeks or so I’d see them here and there, in a yard up the street, or on a corner, and I’d take a quick picture with my phone so I’d remember when and where I’d seen them last.  The most common place to see them was on the corner of a busy street, of all places, so I tried to get a photo and then move on so they didn’t cross that street because of my interest in them.

They came back to the lake on April 15th, and the bottom left photo is from May 7th.  I saw them on the lake again on the 9th, but then I saw two adults with one colt on each of the next three days.  I told myself it was a different family.  I hoped it was a different family.  threeonly

Now comes the part of the story that I’ve wondered how I’d write.  There is no way to know what happened, or when, but on May 13th I was merrily taking photos of the family back on the lake when I saw that one of the colts had injured his left wing.  It appeared to be dragging, or at least drooping.  And he was in the vicinity of the other three, but not really with them.  He had been splashing in one of the pools of water out there while I was watching the other three, so when I saw the drooping wing I hoped it was just wet.  I quickly realized it wasn’t just wet, and when my neighbor came out I asked her what she thought, and we contemplated trying to ‘help’ in some way.  Then I saw one of the adults try to chase off the wounded colt.  I had seen them clear the nest enough times to know what was going on.  It was heartbreaking to watch the colt trudging up the usual path to leave the lake, but then I saw that the rest of the family was following not too far behind…