Sandhills on the Platte | Morning Flight In the early morning, the Sandhills lift off the river to eat in nearby fields. They take flight in groups of hundreds; even thousands, even 10,000s, at one time. To see the entire story with all seven images, go to Sandhills on the Platte | a 7 Image Story.
Sandhills on the Platte | Sunrise Flight At first light, the Sandhills begin to lift off the river to eat in nearby corn fields. A little sun, a little fog, and a few hundred thousand Sandhill Cranes make for a beautiful sunrise on the Platte River. To see the entire story with all seven images, go to Sandhills on the Platte | a 7 Image Story.
Sandhills on the Platte | a 7 Image Story Every year from mid February to the first week of April, most of the planet’s Sandhill Cranes converge along 75-mile stretch of the Platte River near Kearney, Nebraska. The gathering represents the closest thing to the Serengeti we have in the lower 48. It’s one of the world’s top three great wildlife migrations. More than 500,00 Sandhills stop on the Platte to rest and gain weight on their flight from southern USA and Mexico to Canada, Alaska, and Siberia, where the have their young.
If you have never been to this Great Sandhill Crane Migration, it’s worth the trip at least once in your life. Each day, it starts at o’dark thirty along the bends in the Platte River. At first light, the Sandhills begin to lift off the river to eat in nearby corn fields. They take flight in groups of hundreds; even thousands, even 10,000s, at one time. A little sun, a little fog, and a few hundred thousand Sandhill Cranes make for a beautiful sunrise on the Platte River. During the day, the cranes eat grain left over from last fall’s crop, mostly corn, in nearby fields. Then, in late afternoon and early evening, they come back to the river in great flocks to roost overnight on the river. The Platte River in this area is shallow and filled with sand bars. The cranes safely roost on the river since they can hear their predators, like coyotes, coming through the water. Being very smart birds, they actually post sentries to take turns staying awake during the night to warn the flock, if a predator comes their way.
Sandhill Cranes are among the world’s oldest species. They mate for life and return to the same place each year to have their young. They live in freshwater and eat a large variety of foods including plants, grains, mice, snakes, insects, or worms. Sandhills usually nest in wetlands. Females lay two eggs while both parents incubate. Males also defend the nest. Sandhills love to sing and dance; leap high in the air. The birds are naturally gray with their heads topped with a crimson crown. Sometimes, they preen themselves by adding a brown mud to their feathers. For more information on Sandhill Cranes and their great migration, see the Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary.
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Wolf Park Wolves | Wet Wolf Some folks have asked me, if the wolf was close. Well, with a 135mm lens, he wasn’t right next to me, but he was still pretty close, a few feet. If this wolf had not been socialized, the experience would have been more than a bit scary. Of course, in the wild, I would have maybe one chance in ten million, to get this close to a wolf. To see the entire story with all seven images, go to Wolf Park Wolves | a 7 Image Story.
Wolf Park Wolves | Gray Wolf Portrait The gray wolf ranges in color from all white to solid black. Many wolves are more like a taupe color with the guard hairs sometimes banded with black, white, gold and brown. Wolves have two layers of fur. The outer or guard layer consists of long colored hairs that shed water and snow. The inner layer is thick gray fur that traps air insulating the wolf; keeping it warm in sub-zero temperatures. To see the entire story with all seven images, go to Wolf Park Wolves | a 7 Image Story.
Wolf Park Wolves | a 7 Image Story Although I rarely capture images of captive wild animals, Wolf Park is an exception. It maintains a near wild environment for their wolf pack while providing a wild canid research and education center. Wolf Park is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to behavioral research, education, and conservation. They aid researchers as well as offer tours and seminars to their visitors. For the photog, they offer wolf photography classes and photo shoots several times a year. These images were captured in a spring photo class and shoot. Someday, I’d like to go back in the winter when snow covers the ground.
The wolves at Wolf Park are socialized. They are not afraid of the public and will interact in front of visitors. They are better research animals, maintenance and medical care is easier, and their lives are enriched by allowing them to walk and run in multiple environments including their seven acre natural enclosure. The socialization process starts when the pups are only 12-14 days old. It’s a 24/7-365 process involving both men and woman as well as visits from adult wolves. Pups are bottle raised from a very early age and their environment is kept very stable. People come to them; not visa versa. Socialization is integrated into their lives and continues essentially for their entire life at Wolf Park. Although they are socialized from birth, they still have wolf instincts. The socialization process is very detailed and time consuming. For more information, visit Wolf Park’s website.
Included in the photo classes and photo shoots, is required instruction on safely interacting with the wolves and general behavior while in the wolf enclosure. The large enclosure includes a lake, woodlands, and prairie. Yes, accompanied by Wolf Park staff, you can get in the wolf enclosure to capture images. The wolves are right next to you. Obviously, certain restrictions apply. Flash is permitted. Tripods are discouraged. Camera bags and tripods covered in foam padding are not allowed in the enclosure. Photo sessions are held in most weather, including rain or snow. For more detailed information, see the Photography Page on Wolf Park’s website.
Wolves make beautiful subjects for photographs. The gray wolf ranges in color from all white to solid black. Many wolves are more like a taupe color with the guard hairs sometimes banded with black, white, gold and brown. Wolves have two layers of fur. The outer or guard layer is made up of long colored hairs that shed water and snow. The inner layer is thick gray fur that traps air, insulating the wolf; keeping it warm in sub-zero temperatures. In warmer weather, they shed the inner layer. Their eye color ranges from amber/brown or gold to hues of brown, gray, yellow, and green.
The experience of capturing these images was amazing. It’s an creditable experience, which is virtually impossible in the wild. The enclosure is so big, the class had to follow the wolves as they moved from one area to the next. One time, I was capturing an image of a wolf twenty yards away when another came up from behind me and touched my right arm, just before the click. Wow. After I settled down, I had to make another few clicks. Even though they are accustomed to people and sometimes seem like they are posing for the shot, other times they just wrestle and play, as though we were not there at all. The wolves clearly feel at home.
Wolves communicate in a variety of ways including body postures, gestures, and sounds. Sounds may include whimpers, whines, growls, barks, and, of course, the howl. The meaning of these postures and sounds vary with the context in which they were made. Their howl, which may be heard several miles away, may be a solo, a duet, or a chorus. Each type of howl gets used for different reasons. For more detailed information on wolves, go to the wolves information page on Wolf Park’s website.
Each image will be posted individually this week with a bit more narrative under category Wolf Park Wolves.
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Snow Makes the Image | Lake Ice Takeoff This Cessna 185 makes quite a snow storm all by itself while landing on a frozen, snow covered lake. To see the entire story with all seven images, go to Snow Makes the Image | a 7 Image Story.
Snow Makes the Image | Lakefront Ice Walkabout Fresh, deep snow over the ice makes for a beautiful, yet exhausting ice cold walkabout. To see the entire story with all seven images, go to Snow Makes the Image | a 7 Image Story.