Saskatchewan is part of a major migration flyway for many birds, including Snow Geese and Whooping Cranes. Thanks to Sarah Wagner and her friend John, four of us headed out to an area north of Saskatoon where Whopping Cranes have been reported. Talk about a magical day. The light was superb with dark clouds in the east and the sun poking out of the clouds to illuminate the yellow aspen bluffs and harvested fields.
Needles in a haystack seems an apt description of looking for a Whooping Crane in Saskatchewan’s vast flyway for migrating birds. A few delights popped up along the way as we drove the back roads looking for tall white birds.
Here is a Ruffed Grouse slowly walking in a ditch deciding if it will take off in a flurry of noise and confusion to escape the pesky humans.
The afternoon sun kept daring us to ignore, yet another image illuminated with one of its quick peeks over the clouds.
Picking a lane way that led down to a lake revealed a spectacular sight. Well over 10,000 Snow Geese plus numerous Swans, ducks and a few Bald Eagles had chosen this as a spot to rest for some, and perhaps hunt for others.
Suddenly thousands of geese started to honk and rise up from the lake and swirl in intertwining circles to the instructions of an invisible choreographer.
Further on we stopped to photograph a beautiful golden bluff and then noticed two white pillars on a hill in the distance. (Just off to the right but not visible)
Sure enough we had spotted two adult Whooping Cranes and one young one. It is impossible to describe the emotions of being in the presence of a species that has suffered so much and managed to stay alive and continue to slowly expand the population. Whooping Cranes were hunted almost to extinction in the early 1900s with only 14 birds remaining. Conservation efforts have restored the numbers to around 850. Thanks to Jim Lee, president of the Saskatoon Nature Society for a recent article on Whoopers.
Two adults and one young.
At one point a Black-billed Magpie flew in and disturbed the Cranes.
A short time later some Sandhill Cranes flew into the same spot. This action was not appreciated by the Whoopers as the largest one flew over and tried to chase them off.
You will also notice that all three Whooping Cranes have leg bands/transmitters as part of the ongoing efforts to grow the population.
Here is a short Giff of the action. Click HERE.
With the sun continuing its inevitable decent into the golden hour we chose to begin our journey back to Saskatoon. As part of this magical day the photography gods continued to play with the dark background clouds and popping sun rays to feed our souls.