Back in April, 2009 I was spending a lot of time at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, a huge area of protected marshes, waterways and swamps. In fact, this is directly from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:
Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge Lake Woodruff NWR was established in 1964 to provide habitat for migrating and wintering birds. The refuge contains 21,574 acres of freshwater marshes, 5,800 acres of Cypress and mixed hardwood swamps, 2,400 acres of uplands, and more than 1,000 acres of lakes, streams, and canals. The biological diversity of the wetlands provides nesting, overwintering and stopover habitat during migration for neotropical songbirds, migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and raptors (215 bird species have been counted).
Additionally, endangered and threatened species benefit from the wetland habitat and management practices of Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge contains over 5,000 acres of freshwater and more than 50 miles of waterways, which are utilized by the endangered Florida manatees as foraging, breeding and calving areas. More than 23 miles are designated as manatee protection zones.
As I was out one day, and as usual, the trumpeting call of Sandhill Cranes could be heard throughout the refuge. If you’ve never heard a Sandhill Crane before… it’s an extremely loud trumpeting call, that can be heard for miles. A lot of people find them a nuisance because they are so loud, however I don’t and would love to have some of these birds living nearby. Here is an audio clip from the USFWS of their call (courtesy of Wikipedia) : Sandhill Crane Call
On this particular day, I was in for quite a surprise as I came across a family of Sandhill Cranes. Now, I’ve never known these cranes to be shy, or afraid of people… and in fact have seen them take a break from the noon day sun under the awning of a post office…. causing one poor lady to almost faint as she was exiting. Yet, I never thought they would allow a human to watch them so closely with their young.
I surprised myself in fact, I was walking along the path and didn’t initially see them as they were down near the water. As soon as I realized they had their babies with them I tried to back off… I say “tried” because they came right up onto the path and walked right by me. I stayed a few yards behind, ready to leave the instant the adults seemed to mind my presence… yet they never did. They split into two pairs, one adult and one baby each and proceeded to teach their young how to find a meal. In instances like this, I often forget I have a camera with me and become entranced by what I am seeing… yet I did manage to snap a few shots: