These birds have a particular “dance” they do. It incorporates all the necessary elements necessary to impress a potential romantic partner: strutting, wing-spreading, hopping about, as well as the occasional tossing of straw or dirt clods into the air. We witnessed the last maneuver, but my shots of it were too blurry to be of use. Suffice it to say that witnessing this spectacle of crane dancing is worth getting up at six AM for.
Since this blog has taken a turn toward animals lately (both dead and alive), we’ll stay on theme with a post or two on Sand Cranes. These are large migratory birds that converge by the thousands on the same field in Indiana every fall and spring. Until this weekend, I had no idea such a sight was to be had within ninety minutes’ drive of Chicago. When a friend suggested taking a trip to see them, the Idiot Photographer and I jumped at the chance. After all, road trips are always fun, and we needed some photo opportunities since the urbex has been in a little lull of late. So 6AM this past Sunday found us on the road, trying to get to the wildlife preserve shortly after dawn when these birds would be most active.
Some quick lessons learned: the lenses optimal for shooting decaying buildings are not so hot when it comes to capturing birds in flight. I had thought my 250mm lens was quite the zoom; it was neither “zoomy” or fast enough to get the kind of shots I was hoping for. Live and learn. I will post a few more shots tomorrow, including a couple of the cranes’ famous mating dance.
Two shots of birds from last weekend’s trip to the Brookfield Zoo. First, the instantly recognizable Greater Delta Mardi Gras Bird. (Bourbonaisse Plumarius)
And a portrait of the handsome Tufted Blue Gargler (Indigo Emesis)
As a younger man, I played a lot of basketball. Sometimes I would go by myself down to the gym, get on a pick up team, and play. Other times I would have three or four friends with me, a ready made team, and we’d take on whoever we could find. Certain courts or gyms in the area were known to have great competition; we’d seek those out when we could. It was a scene similar to Rucker Park, though on a much lower level, of course.
Whatever the level of play was, the competition was always fierce. The informal rules were that the winning team would stay on the court and play the next challengers; if you were lucky enough to be on a solid team that day, you’d play for a couple hours straight. If, however, you stepped on the court and recognized immediately that you were outclassed, it could be a quick and humbling game.
And so it was when after the Idiot Photographer and I decided on a Saturday trip to the zoo, I knew I was going to be in for a photographic drubbing. My friend and co-blogger knows animals like few others. Animal behavior is mysterious to most of us, but to her, it is clear as day. It really is kind of awesome. And her understanding of animals informs her photography. She seems to know how to wait for a good picture, whereas I wish someone would taxidermy the damned critters so they’d stop moving and I could get my shot.
IP has already posted a couple shots from our trip to Brookfield Zoo, now it’s my turn. It’ll feel a bit like chucking up bricks on the court, but you still have to play the game.
I mentioned previously that when out and about exploring I really don’t fear wild or feral animals. For the most part if you let them be they will slink off and not bother you since the last thing they want is a confrontation. That being said, I do fear pigeons.
The most dangerous animal:
A few times now I come close to being killed by a pigeon. They tend to roost in these old unused buildings, they are perfect pigeon rookeries. The problem comes in when a startled pigeon launches itself off a perch and knocks loose a pipe or brick to come crashing down on your head or shoulders.
This fella nearly brained me with a brick at the Gary church.
Twice in the church I have come close to having a brick dropped on my noggin, it is enough to make a person consider a hard hat. At the power plant a startled pigeon dropped a pipe on my shoulder from about 20 feet up and I had one hell of a bruise for about a week. Not that I let it stop me of course, I just kept going and pretending it didn’t hurt until I got home and saw myself in the mirror that evening.
If you are considering urban exploring, even in well trafficked, well know buildings I’d suggest considering carrying a first aide kit, respirator (oh the upper respiratory infections I’ve gotten from this hobby, lesson learned there!) and a hard hat at minimum. That being said I still have to get the first and last on that list , shame on me.
In the event you do cross paths with a wild animal just back slowly away and don’t make direct eye contact, likely they will just shuffle off and leave you unless you are threatening their young. Same for feral animals, even feral dogs (though I’d be a little more cautious around them.)
If you see pigeons try to avoid being under them, poop is the least of your concerns.
So of course I had to take his photo.
In Zion National Park I took a moment to deviate from one of the paths at a bridge and follow a set of steps down to the creek. There wasn’t an actual path at the creek, I think the steps were there so you could cross it on some stepping stones as there were another set of steps on the other side, but I took several minutes to explore up and down the creek bed to see what I could.
Dragonflies, a profusion of dragonflies! And not a picture to show of them! There were little darting red ones, giant orange dreadnaughts, elegant bright blue and ominous iridescent black. The creek itself was full of little fish and despite the speed of the water there were even Water Striders. I found myself wishing desperately I had a better macro lens, but I am ok with the simple memory even if I can’t share the photo.
As I worked my way upstream (and seriously pissed off a ground squirrel by standing right in front of it’s bolt-hole) on a tumble of fallen tree I saw a flicker of movement. It was too small to be another ground squirrel, too big to be a bug. I crept closer and was treated to this sight.
Talk about adorable! I spent a good 15 or 20 minutes watching him sun himself and catch a few bugs while trying to take a good picture of him. I was careful to stay back enough to not disturb him too much though. Back at the visitor center a ranger helped me identify him a splotch sided lizard, but he mentioned that they are also known locally as “fence post lizards” which I think is some what more pleasant name.
Just look at that little face, I want to hug him!