Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cranes in Love: Part I

It is our understanding most pairing between sandhill cranes takes place before the pairs reach their nesting grounds. Cranes gather in huge groups during migration and are well known for their early morning dance. Once paired, the cranes usually remain bonded until the death of one.

During our many springs in Yellowstone we’ve only see glimpses of dancing; that is until today. I think the cranes we usually see have already established their pair bond. Today we were royally treated. The few sketches I drew at the time are clumsy … but Dale got a wonderful series of far off photos for me to draw from.

These drawings show what we saw better than words can tell. At the time the deep portions of Blacktail Ponds were still frozen, but the shallow areas had thawed.

First the smaller, probably the female, struts off across the ice, head held high. The Male doesn’t follow, so she comes back and fetches him.

Both cranes walk over to a patch of long bulrushes and beginning tossing broken stems. The nest site isn’t established yet. It all seems rather experimental at this point.

After tossing stems for awhile the pair walk to the far side of the pond where the shallow water has thawed. Busy foraging in the damp earth. I got busy watching ducks and forgot about them. Suddenly we realize one crane is bowing and jumping in front of the other.

It took a little doing, but soon both cranes are kicking up their heels. Wings flap, water splashes. Their wild bugling fills the valley of Blacktail Ponds.

…. And the finale’.


  1. These are marvelous sketches. I have seen Sandhills do this in our area. They are merely passing through here though. It is fun to see them jousting in the fields. I never tire of hearing their communications. Such a primal sound.

  2. Thnak you, Lisa. Cranes are one of my favorite creatures. As a child it was a rare treat to see one in Wisconsin. I still pinch myself when I get to watch them.

  3. This reads like a picture book, Elva. Lovely illustrations and engaging story.

  4. I so love the finale! Just wonderful, and I agree, this reads like a book. Your whole blog does. Thank you.

  5. Totally captivating, Elva! Your sketches bring the story to life!

  6. Wow! Wonderful paintings and fascinating commentary!