Cranes, life, nature, photography

Sandhill cranes #6, off the nest

April brought big changes for the colts.  Their wingspan amazed me, but as much as they flapped those wings I hadn’t seen one fly as yet.  I watched for hours, and thought I observed that one baby kept close to the mother and was rather sedate, and the other one followed dad all around and was ‘all boy’.  He wandered more, puffed out his chest and flapped more often, and just seemed more adventurous.  I wondered if these were gender specific roles that they were learning, and would serve to protect them as they became adults and raised families of their own.  Mostly I waited for cute poses.

But while the colts were striking poses one of the adults became possessed with creating a mound out in the water.  A new nest?  First the one and then both adults worked all day pulling weeds up out of the water and placing them on the mound.  They rearranged, and then continued.  Eventually the colts came over and participated, and even laid down.  But they didn’t spend the night on the mound, they went back to the island for the night.

I was happy with this new development because the mound they were creating was closer to me, so better pictures.  But I hadn’t yet connected the dots…

I was up extra early one morning and saw, out in the darkness, someone across the lake shining a light out onto the water.  Also shining it up into the backyards over there.  The only thing stopping me from calling the police right then was the fact that one house over by this guy had lots of lights on.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt and thought his dog was missing or something.  But when I touched base with a neighbor the next day I found out that she had also seen him earlier, about midnight, and that she had heard him firing a pellet gun.  Pellets had hit the trampoline frame in her yard.  She thought he might be shooting at raccoons or something, but when she turned on her outside lights he went inside.

Over the next few days I saw him a couple of times.  I was upset because I couldn’t help but worry that his interest in shining a light out onto the lake had something to do with the crane family.  So one night when he was out there I let the dogs out and I heard the pellet gun.  Once I heard it myself I watched until it got light and I went out back with my camera and tripod, as was usual for me, and sat down like I was going to take pictures of the cranes, but I took pictures of him.   The light was on his head, not a flashlight as I’d thought,  and a fishing pole in his hands.  And another guy with him it turned out.  When he was out again the next night I called the police.  They arrived as I left for work so I don’t know what happened, but I never saw Flashlight man, as I’d come to think of him, again.   But it was too late, because in the photo of him you can also see the crane family  leaving the lake as usual.  But they never came back to spend the night on the nest again.  I have to wonder if I had done something sooner would they have stayed?  Was that guy the reason they had started building the mound, further away from where he stood out there?  Maybe it’s normal for them to leave the original nest?  I wish I had answers.