Tag Archives: Sandhill Cranes

Field Log 3/14/2010

North Erath County, Texas, 32.43 lat., -98.36 long. Elev. 1,086 ft.  Turkey Creek Quad.

Four Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) soaring about house and Poprock Hill.  First sighting this spring.  (Note: clean off mud nest on front porch.  Verify type again.)

Resident hawk(s) is not a red-tail.  Unable to verify type.   Possible Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). Conventional scream or call.  Same resident hawk with sibling I have seen in the grove.  Nest high.

Grasses emerging in Pecan Tree pasture.  Side-oats gramma is approx. three (3) inches high.  Dead grass has given cover for small untyped birds and gramma sprouts.

Three flocks of Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) seen in afternoon.  Tuk-tuk alert to look up.  Flocks flying 75-100 m.p.h. ground speed est.  Altitude est. 2,000 feet above ground level.  Wind south-southeast.  Three stragglers.  Again, only a few tuk-tuks, indicates leader or alpha call?  These flocks number 200-300, but only few calls.  Why?  Evangeline Chavez in at Bosque Apache in New Mexico sights Crane flights today.  She is 600+ miles away.

Shiney the colt has twenty (20) mane hair samples with roots sent to U. of C., Davis for DNA typing and registration with AQHA.  Brenda reached through corral fence for mane hair.  He’s a good boy.

Nephew of Kelly Dooley, the Dooley place, shoots .22 caliber pistol or rifle to the west of us.  Bullets whiz through corral near Hija and me.  Emergency call to Kelly.  She gets nephew to orient himself away from corrals.  Four (4) bullets pass through air while I am in corral.  Brenda on porch has one bullet pass by.  Bullets sound like big, fast mosquitoes:  low tones, not high tones, buzzing.  Nephew is from town, goes goofy in country.  Deeply apologetic.

Native brush sprouting buds and yellow blossoms in grove.  Gathered two (2) large stones from grove.  Filled Pecan Tree water trough that Olivia helped me fill at Christmas.

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Sandhill Crane Higher and Faster

Sandhill Crane Above Flying Hat, March 14, 2010 (click to enlarge)

I’m sitting with Brenda out on the back porch thirty minutes ago and I hear the tuk-tuk of the Sandhill Crane.  I get the binoculars and camera, but I cannot see them in the sky.  The second flock comes by within five minutes and I snap the pictures above.

The Sandhill are flying fast with a east-southeast wind at their tails.  I estimate their ground speed may be 75-100 m.p.h.  I have to work fast.

I took pictures of a third large flock and then three stragglers (teenagers, most likely, sleeping late) soaring fast.  See the two pictures below.

Second Flock Sandhill Crane Above Flying Hat, March 14, 2010 (click to enlarge)

Three Sandhill Crane Above Flying Hat, March 14, 2010 (click to enlarge)

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Sandhill Cranes: 350+ Northing

Yesterday at about 5:45 p.m., as I returned from the pasture, I heard the Sandhill Crane, tuk-tuk–tuk-tuk, and looked south towards Hannibal, Texas, the direction I had seen flocks earlier this week.  I saw no flocks to the south.  Catching the sound again, I looked east towards the Rust Ranch (whose horse barn repeats my microwave for internet service) and saw a huge, migratory, single congregation of Sandhill Crane heading north, three miles away, 1,500 feet a.g.l. over the Rust Ranch barns.

By my quick and dirty count, I estimated the northing cranes at about 350-500 in number.  My camera was back at the house, so I could not get there in time to snap a picture of this huge flock.

I may have this wrong, but I discerned that in this large flock of 350+, only, say, ten cranes calling, tuk-tuk.  I would have thought more vocalizations from such a large group.  But no.  It was the largest flock I have seen in flight.  I have heard large flocks on the ground in the Muleshoe, Texas, marshes and their murmurs are quite numerous before daylight.  Beautiful, peaceful chorus.

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Sandhill Cranes Going North

Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) Flying North, Hannibal, Texas, February 28, 2010 (click to enlarge)

Yesterday, February 28, 2010, as I came back from feeding the horses at 5:50 p.m., I heard the tuk-tuk–tuk-tuk–tuk-tuk of the Sandhill Crane overhead.  The cranes were heading north, about 1,500 feet above ground level.  I first saw them over Hannibal, Texas, six miles to the south of us, and after I got the camera and starting taking pictures, they had flown over the ranch and were two or three miles away to the north.  They were circling and moving north at the same time.  Thirty minutes later, another flock of cranes, this group shaped in a V configuration, were flying faster in the same direction.  Their tuk-tuk calls were less frequent.  I suppose they were intent on catching up with the crowd ahead of them who had found, most likely, a good marsh to settle down for the night.  Preferring flight than chat, they sped quietly into dusk.

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Sandhill Crane Flights above Flying Hat

Yesterday, October 30, 2009, I saw three flocks of Sandhill Cranes flying south over our place.  They were at a height of about 1500-2000 feet.  Each flock contained about fifty cranes.  A trilling call among the flock signals they are in the air.  The Sandhill Crane call is almost like a cat’s purr, only higher in pitch.

As a side note, also yesterday, I heard crows screeching on the Dooley’s place to the west of us.  I looked up and saw four or five crows chasing and harassing a large red-tailed hawk out of the sky.  The crows would fly almost directly into the body of the hawk, pushing him outward to the east over our place.  The crows relented and the hawk flew overhead, towards the east, emitting a high whistle of a call as it flew.  We have several hawks on our place and I doubt that they will survive the great and mighty hunters of Kentucky that seem to descend on neighboring farms during this season.  Yes, mighty hunters that disrespect wildlife and kill wildlife with powerful rifles while sitting in deer stands in their polyester coats, sipping whiskey.  The hawks, deer, fox, and other critters know that when they are on the Matthews place, they are safe.

I don’t condemn the man or woman that must take a life for food.  But take a life for trophy or brag is disrespectful and that life taken and not respected or honored in its death will come back on that man or woman in their dreams and thoughts until the day they die.  Killing fields exist off of the high ground of warfare.

Several years ago, circa 1975, Charles Fairweather, Selden Hale, and I went to Muleshoe, Texas, to get up early in the morning and hunt Sandhill Cranes at the wildlife refuge.  We weren’t that serious in hunting them; it was more of chance to leave Amarillo for the night.  That next morning, we loaded up on flatbed trailers, about 50-60 hunters per trailer, and drove out to the refuge.  We crouched about 300 yards from where the cranes were spending the night.  The chatter of the cranes in the dark was peaceful and lulling.  The three of us began to regret our hunt.  When daybreak occurred, the cranes began to fly, and most hunters could not reach the altitudes with their shotguns at which the cranes flew.  The cranes would circle higher and higher before they flew over the mighty hunters of Kentucky.  I saw only one crane killed.  A hundred to two-hundred hunters, killing one crane, and it would not be eaten.  Neither Charles, nor Selden, nor I fired a shot.  We went back to Amarillo and ate lunch, saying little about the morning’s early light.

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