Sandhill cranes are common in Florida. Indeed, they are so common in the Sarasota area that there are roadsigns in quieter places away from town where they are known to congregate. After seeing the the magnificent flocks in Willcox, Arizona, a few months ago, I was hoping we might see some sandhill cranes up close during our stay in the Sunshine State.
Well, my wish to see some sandhill cranes “up close and personal” came true in spades in the last few days as we became witness to the most beautiful little slice of life and glimpse of Mother Nature’s wondrous works.
A pair of these enormous birds decided to ignore the roadsigns entirely and build a nest in a most unlikely spot, sandwiched between a Bob Evans restaurant and a Lowes home improvement store in a very busy part of the city next to a tiny pond filled with lily pads.
The parents were attentive to all the traffic and city noise around them, but they were surprisingly calm.
When Mom stood up, we saw two little eggs in the nest. She gently rolled them around and then settled back down on them.
Now, this is not only a very busy area, with locals and tourists driving by all the time, city sirens screaming in the distance, and a general urban hum of activity filling the air, but a flock of crazy photographers and birders had taken up residence right in front of the nest!
When our friend and host first took us to the nest, we stuck around for a while to see if the eggs would hatch. No such luck. The sun began to set, and the babies were still in their eggs, so we took off.
When we returned the next morning, the photographers and birders will all in position with huge grins on their faces. The first egg had just hatched!
The baby bird was a little unsteady, but for being just an hour old, he was doing amazingly well, sitting upright and looking around.
Mama kept poking her head down to see how he was doing…
His little batteries were very small and needed lots of recharging. He’d look around for a few minutes and then he’d flop over and fall asleep.
While he was sleeping, Mom was eager for the other egg to hatch. She helped it a long a bit (we were all quite surprised!).
Dad had been hanging out on the other side of the pond. He flew over to the nest and the two parents walked around the chick and the egg for a while.
It was amazing to look at these big birds and to think that they had been tiny little chicks once too.
When the baby chick sat up again, the sound of camera shutters clicking filled the air as everyone holding a camera leaped into action, from the guys with the huge lenses and tripods to the growing crowd with cell phones.
These chicks have enormous legs and feet, and the little chick tried to get them coordinated underneath himself to walk around. This was not so easy — he instantly lost his balance and fell over backwards!!
Oh dear!! Maybe the trick is to roll over…
He finally got himself upright and situated over his two feet. This had taken a lot out of him. He looked around and let out a big yawn.
The audience of photographers were all chuckling at his antics by now. This little bird was just too cute!
“Who’s going to hand out the cigars when that other one hatches?” A guy behind me asked.
We all watched in wonder as this tiny creature that had been tucked into an egg just two hours ago made his way down to the water’s edge. Mom and Dad didn’t discourage him. They were busy eating his discarded egg shell and cleaning up!
It was late morning by now, and we both had hundreds of photos on our cameras. We decided to leave the scene and come back later to see if the other chick hatched.
When we returned later in the afternoon, the crowd of birders and photographers was even bigger, and we found out the second chick had emerged from his egg too. Mom was keeping a close eye on both of her new babies.
The two little fluff balls sat side by side while we all said “aw” over and over as they fumbled around.
They managed to get themselves up on their feet and face each other, and the crowd gasped in laughing surprise as they began to spar a little and flap their wings.
Mom poked her head in again to see what was going on with these two.
All this excitement was a lot for a five hour old bird. The older one in front began yawning again.
Then he fell over on his side and crashed, fast asleep, while the other one looked around.
After just a minute or two he woke up and sat back up again while the younger bird in back fell over on his side, fast asleep. This business of living takes a lot of energy for a little bird!
The older in front couldn’t stay awake long either. All of a sudden he rolled over on his side and fell asleep too.
We tip-toed away, and the other photographers began to wrap up their gear and head home too.
A little later in the day we snuck back to check on them, and the birds were on their own without an audience of people. They had moved about 100 feet from the nest to a new location in tall, protective grasses.
By the next morning, the whole little family was gone!
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