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Working on the Crane Game

December 19, 2013
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Way back when I used to update this blog somewhat regularly I may have mentioned that I’m doing some work for North Carolina State Parks. Before I moved to Greensboro this work was done from the downtown Raleigh offices which, proximity to the wonderful Museum of Natural Sciences aside, was a fairly conventional place to work. But now that I’ve moved, I’ve taken my assignment west to one of North Carolina’s fine state parks, Haw River State Park in southern Rockingham County. This means that every day I work there, I get to spend a little time walking the trails and looking for birds. It turns out that Haw River State Park is a pretty great hotspot. In the 4 months that I’ve been working out of there I’ve seen 90 species. My only grievance is the fact that all of these birds count for Rockingham County and not my new home county.

Red-headed Woodpeckers are thick in the headwaters of the Haw River, a vast marshy seep covered with dead and dying trees.

Red-headed Woodpeckers are thick in the headwaters of the Haw River, a vast marshy seep covered with dead and dying trees.

I should probably write about all that at some point. It’s all well and good, but this past week working in Rockingham County turned out to be pretty convenient when a quartet of Sandhill Cranes were reported not more than 15 minutes from where I was sitting. It took me about two minutes to make the executive decision to take a long lunch and shoot out the door.

A short time later I had pulled off the side of a rural route staring out the window into a corn field where the cranes were lounging. Sandhill Cranes not uncommon in North Carolina, but they can be hard to predict and nearly impossible to twitch. Large numbers of the birds winter over the border in eastern Tennessee and the few annual offshoots that find their way into rural North Carolina probably end up mostly in places that birders are unlikely to find them. Away from major population centers and hotspots. To find one you either have to get lucky and stumble into it, or get on a quick chase. I hadn’t ever been fortunate to manage the first.

Because I was not geared up for birding, my camera was sitting at home. I did have my phone, however, and I was able to snap off a few photos through my binoculars. No great shakes, as they say, but sufficient for documentation at least.

Identifiable Sandhill Crane. My reputation continues to avoid accusations of stringery.

Identifiable Sandhill Crane. My reputation continues to avoid accusations of stringery.

With that overdue but unexpected state tick, I’ve managed a total of 7 for the year. My pretty productive 2013 is coming to an end one bird closer to 350 than I expected, my new goal for the near-term.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 13, 2014 4:18 pm

    I love cranes…

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