Do you want to join me on a magical walk? Well, come along! I’ve sorted my more than 800 images down to only a few dozen to represent the wonderful morning I spent at the Shiawasee National Wildlife Refuge this past Monday.
I knew I was late in the migration season. The herons and egrets were long gone. No pelicans to watch. I figured even the sandhill cranes should have moved on by now, though I still see them out at my favorite park. I wasn’t even sure why I was out there when the chances of seeing anything special were so slim.
But since it was one of our last beautiful fall days I thought I’d stand there on the observation deck in the parking lot and wait, just see what the sun would bring.
After a few minutes in the cold silence I went back to the car to get my gloves.
And right about then I heard a sound. I couldn’t quite place it. It sounded like a gentle wave was rising softly against the sand on some distant beach. It got louder. And louder. And then, squinting in the dim light, I saw them. Thousands and thousands of little birds coming across the marsh toward me in the pinking morning sky.
The sound swished and washed and surrounded me for only a moment and then they were gone, disappearing into the light in the east. The experience was so amazing that I thought if I saw nothing else, heard nothing else, I’d still be glad I made the hour plus drive so early in the morning.
And then I heard the cranes. (Click on the link to hear them, in fact listen to them while you read this, it will feel more like you’re really there!) It started with just a couple of those distinctive cries coming from somewhere far away. And then the sound grew.
I saw the first three cranes flying out for breakfast. And then a few more. And more. And then more and more and more and more.
I don’t know how long I stood there, alone in an empty parking lot, fingers no longer cold, grinning like crazy trying to get the shot, the feeling, of what it was like to have so much craziness just above my head in the pink sky.
And then there was a different sound, lower, almost hidden under the screeching of the crane voices. What could that be? I lowered the camera and searched for the source.
Trumpeter swans! Just a couple of them, making a more gutteral sound, announcing their presence. As if to say, notice us! We’re here too!
Then my attention was back on the waves of cranes still coming toward me. Wave after wave of them.
Even with all the activity I began to wonder…how many images of flying cranes does a person need? Well, just one more.
Well, I thought to myself, I could stand out here all day, but there’s more to explore. Best to get moving.
There aren’t many days left for wandering these trails before the winter sets in. In fact, there are some weeks where hiking is prohibited as the preserve allows hunting to manage the deer population. I’ve never been here this late in the season and I was startled to see the hunting blinds places strategically along the trail.
I understand the need, but I wished the couple of white-tailed deer I glimpsed good luck next week when the hunters will be back on the job.
The trail here is on top of a series of dykes, most of the time there’s water on both sides. When I’m here earlier in the season the water is filled with migrating ducks, but in November their safe places are filled with fallen leaves instead.
Almost as pretty, though less exciting for sure.
Along the way, while trying to get a shot of trees in early light, I stepped on something soft that exploded around my knees in a foggy mist.
That was cool, but it reminded me to watch more carefully where I was going. And to listen better too, as this early morning walker startled me with her quiet approach.
We smiled hello to each other and she briskly moved on past. I stayed to get this shot:
And then I heard that distinctive low sound overhead again. I pointed the camera up and waited.
Once they did their fly over I tried to pick up my pace. I was still a distance away from the turn around point, a viewing platform out in an open wetland. By now I knew there were other people already there, the woman, her lovely husband with the English accent who followed her and another birder I’d met earlier in my walk. All three of them had passed me as I lolly-gagged along, taking photos.
There’s all sorts of reasons you’d enjoy your time here, birding and photography are just a couple. It would be worth the walk just to see such beautiful places. But since you can’t all get there, I thought I’d share a few of them with you.
I have more, but this seems long enough. Do you wonder what I saw when I got out to that viewing platform? There’s always something to see out there.
I’ll share the rest with you in the next post. Katie demands attention now. And you know how she is.
Best to get to getting, she says.
So I will.