Sand Hill Cranes at Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

I had my semiannual dentist appointment in Vancouver last Tuesday, and, as usual, I left early so I could spend the morning at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge before going to lunch with my fellow retired schoolteachers. I was beginning to question whether it had really been worth getting up at 5:30 just to visit the wildlife refuge when I noticed that the flocks of birds taking off from the southern end of the refuge didn’t quite look like the large number of Canada Geese I’d seen repeatedly taking flight.

As I got closer I realized that the large birds I’d observed taking off were Sand Hill Cranes, more Sand Hill Cranes than I had ever seen at one place before. Although many had already left, others were still feeding or preening themselves, apparently waiting their turn to take off.

 Sand Hill Cranes browsing

And take off they did, in flight after flight, most of them flying directly south,

Sand Hill Cranes in flight

banking to the right,

 Sand Hill Cranes in flight

and heading directly over my head as they turned northward.

 Sand Hill Cranes in flight

I’ll have to admit that though I’ve seen several Sand Hill Cranes in the past few years I’ve been birding I’ve never been too impressed with them. They’ve never struck me as particularly elegant birds. So, I was more than a little surprised when I was suddenly awestruck when a large flock of them, far too large of a flock to capture in a single shot flew directly over me. I must have sat there for fifteen minutes letting flight after flight pass over. I was so impressed that I returned after my dental appointment, hoping to capture them in better light, but, of course, they, like most special moments in life, were no longer to be found. Such moments seem only to occur unexpectedly.