Makin' Whoopie (getting lucky one last time in 2013)
Gain 10 pounds, drink more single malt and get published in Arizona Highways. It seemed like a pretty challenging list of New Year's Resolutions I made at this time last year, but I kicked butt on all three counts. Those 2013 accomplishments are pretty exciting, but nothing like the excitement of seeing and photographing wild Whooping Cranes. In the 1940s, the Whoopers were down to only 14-16 wild individuals - extinction looked likely. But the cranes got their groove on (many in captive breeding situations - sounds like some kinky fun there) and now there are approximately 200 Whooping Cranes in the wild.
Here's one percent of the entire population of wild Whooping Cranes. This is full frame from a D7000 (crop-frame sensor) with 500mm lens plus 1.4x teleconverter so 21x power. For awhile it looked like the cranes would keep this distance from all the camera-wielding nature buffs parked outside the property boundaries.
Whooping Cranes winter in South Texas in and around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Two family groups were residing near Goose Island State Park in the fields near a local hunting club.
Horrid blow-up of a terrible shot, but it shows how freaking stately these five-foot tall birds are. Those aren't pigeons it's towering over, those are Sandhill Cranes, a huge bird in it's own right.
With lame shots like those first two I was getting pretty frustrated. I could book a boat tour to look for other groups, but with no guarantee of getting any closer. So I went back the next day and decided I'd just wait and see what happened. The birds were in the same fields and being pretty camera shy. Numerous birders snapped a quick pic with a point-and-shoot to prove they'd seen the rare bird, the left after a few minutes. I waited. Then I waited. Other birders came and went. More waiting ensued. A few hours went by then a family of three took to the air. It looked like they might land close to a nearby road so I gave chase. Instead of landing in the field they continued on over the bay then landed in the shallow water about 50 yards offshore. The boy is gonna get lucky!
Mom, Dad and Junior. The Cranes generally stay in family units. Junior is the one with the cinnamon head.
Preening - got to look good for the photo shoot. Despite the camera being firmly clamped to a tripod, I was having trouble framing shots because I was shaking from cold and excitement.
Getting close involved creeping along the shoreline through a vortex of vultures feasting on a deer carcass dumped in the bay across the road from from the hunting club.
Okay photographer, you been here long time. We go now.
Thanks for checking out the Vermphoto blog this last year. See you in 2014,
amazing job…next year a cover boy…whoopy whoopy
Happy New Year Verm!
Keep up the great work! Whoop, Whoop!
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