Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sandhills on ice

We're moving into the sixth day of this cold snap, and it's finally warming up. It's snowing again; that will help.

On Tuesday, the sun was shining, and the wind had died. We went down to Reifel Island to see how the birds were faring.

The ponds were all frozen hard. Mallards and wigeons and coots thronged around the warming cabin, where there was still some open water, but beyond that area, the ice was still and empty. A few herons stood miserably  against the banks, all puffed up, with their necks buried in the body feathers. Several redwing blackbirds and a squirrel were at a feeder in a sheltered spot. Only the chickadees and juncos went about their life as usual.

Out by the far dike, we met three young sandhill cranes standing, one-footed, on the ice.

It's their first winter; what a shock!

I scattered a large handful of bird seed on the ice for them.

And four more cranes that had been sunning themselves on a sand bar came over. I spread more seed.

Walking carefully; their feet slip backwards with each step.

Oops! Where the sun reached, colour returned. Otherwise everything was grey and cold blue.
Warm feathers, cold feet.

I gave them the rest of my bird seed and wished I had more. All their usual food is under that hard stuff.

One went over to the far bank and hurried up and down, (Oops! Slipped again.) looking for something.

Water! Right where the bank meets the ice, there is a crack big enough for a sandhill beak.

They eat (when people aren't feeding them)
Mostly grains and seeds, some insects, other invertebrates, and small vertebrates. (Cornell).
The insects, frogs and snakes will all be in hiding now. But the grasses are plentiful, and topped with seeds. On the paths, there are frozen berries and crabapples. They should be all right, once they get the hang of it.


  1. They do look mystified but it makes for a great set of photos

  2. I loved your comment about the roll of toilet paper on the weather, it was hilarious :O)

  3. We have a crane in Pembrokeshire at the moment - a rare visitor - birders very excited.

  4. Great series of images, I've never seen cranes on ice before, they do seem out of sorts a little ;-)

  5. Hi, Nathan, and welcome! I love your photography. (For the others: On his blog. Click on his name for the profile and link.)


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