Sunday, March 18, 2012

Visiting the Cranes

Sandhill crane (Grus canadensis, Family Gruidae).

Mary and I had gone into town to do some errands -- and to see if the sandhill cranes were still at Lake Henderson.

First, we happened upon a St. Patrick's Day celebration as we parked in the municipal lot:

Not only was the street closed to traffic, but if you look at lower left you can see that the lane line has been painted green -- kind of.

Neither Mary nor I were wearing green, but this dog followed the day's dress code:

Our thoughts were turned toward the green of lily pads and other foliage out by the lake. This time we made our visit earlier in the day, and I got a clearer shot of one of the cranes.

I also fiddled with aperture size and shutter speed as we lost the light. The shot below began as something considerably darker (taken with a 1/40 second exposure at f4.5), before I put it through its paces:

Then Mary spotted the coots (Fulica americana, Family Rallidae):

We counted nine altogether. Not all of them appear in frame.

This time I had presence of mind to get the scene on video:

The video includes a nest exchange between the mated cranes. Sandhill cranes take turns incubating their eggs and caring for their young. The crane in the photos took a short flight (lucky video catch!) to relieve the other of nesting duty. The audio includes grunts being made by at least one (unseen) alligator.

We had also remembered our binoculars. After I took the video, we watched some drama unfold between the coots and the newly-liberated crane. Every time the coots got too close to the nest, the crane chased them away. By this time the light was low enough that I had stashed my camera in its bag and was content to just watch.

We arrived home after dark, but the planets were still in fine form. Venus continues to pull away from Jupiter following their March 15 conjunction:

Here's Mars against its backdrop of Leo. The right-hand version shows the outline made by the constellation.

For comparison, here's the outline from EarthSky, showing the position of Mars on March 3:

My shot might have some "extra" stars, otherwise known as camera noise. My camera's longest exposure is four seconds, which is a short time for astrophotography. After downloading, I fiddled considerably with brightness, contrast, and gamma, to make the stars come out.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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