For many years I have had an interest in wildlife of all types, including birds. In my travels have come across flocks of white pelicans in South Dakota, watched brown pelicans fly in formation over the Gulf of Mexico and once got my first photo of sandhill cranes in flight and didn’t even know it until I looked at the photos.
But 2017 was a year of bird-watching expansion for me. My many treks to Jacobson Park in Lexington brought me the opportunity to meet numerous photographers, many of whom are very avid bird watchers. I caught the “Bird Flu” if you will and it has stayed with me. In fact, I had become so enthralled with my bald eagle sightings over the year that my wife even made a bald eagle pillowcase for me as a Christmas gift!
I think what really kicked it off for me was a trip I took in mid-January down to Barren River Lake State Resort park area to their annual Sandhill Crane Celebration. They offered tours and also provided visitors with locations that they had been seen. I had gained an interest in this after seeing some photographs by others on Facebook.
Initially, I had no idea what I was looking for. I knew they were migrating in and knew that they hung around in the mud flats at night and then in nearby corn fields during the day…chiefly throughout the month of January.
After driving around for miles, I finally spotted them! Out there in a corn field were maybe two hundred of them. I parked and tried to approach them so I could hopefully get a good photo with my 200mm lens. (Unlike many of the photographers I know who have those nice long 600mm lenses).
Though I found “a few” around the Bon Ayr area near Barren River, I didn’t see the “1000s” that many said I would see. But, I had heard that there might also be huge flocks of them in Cecilia, KY, just south of Elizabethtown. So, I booked my way up I-65 to try to get there with some daylight remaining. And what I treat I got AFTER I finally located them. Indeed, there were 1000s!!
But sandhill cranes were certainly not my only thrill this year. I also got to be fairly close up to bald eagles on a number of occasions and even was able to see a pair in their nest along with their newly hatched eaglets. This was an amazing opportunity.
These birds are huge. Every so often I got to see one fly directly over my head and their wingspan was amazing. The eagles certainly deserve their treatment as the national bird of the United States. I am so grateful to have witnessed their magnificence over the course of 2017.
I also saw and photographed my first ospreys this year. Their wing coloration and massive size are beautiful. Though not quite as large as an eagle, they too soar through sky with ease and swoop in, even dive, for their prey.
But the raptors aren’t the only birds. This past year I have seen more variety of songbirds tonight ever seen in previous years. Most likely because I was more aware. I was thrilled to see Red Taningers, Eastern Bluebirds, Cedar waxwings and others. I watched over a period of days as Baltimore Orioles wove their nest. Of course, I also got some nice heron shots, egrets, cormorants and gulls. It was a great year for birding!! Following are some of my favorite photos from the year (many more but can’t overload this post)