Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 

Sizeable Birds: Sandhill Cranes and Immature Bald Eagles

It is evening, and I am standing in the middle of a muskeg contemplating....pond scum. The small ponds in this particular muskeg have a bubbly layer on top, and I am wondering if it will stop the mosquito larvae from breathing at the surface and lower their population just the tiniest bit.  *sigh* Wishful thinking.

A movement catches my eye as the light is leaving for the day. With stop-and-go steps, two long-legged birds walk into view. I am suddenly self aware as there is no cover for one hundred feet. If I start walking away I will alarm the birds, so I do the next best thing: slowly bring my camera up and take pictures.

Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis tabida)

The sandhill crane pair work haltingly along the edge of the muskeg, moving apart and then back together. They vocalize with low, gentle "thuck, thuck" sounds, and their necks stretch out and curve back with each step.

Sandhill crane push-me-pull-you

Their tail feathers look like a bustle!

There are pairs of sandhill cranes nesting here and there on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. The pairs that I have seen appear to be greater sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis tabida), which fits with information in an article by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The cranes walk this way and that, working all along one side of the muskeg, and almost all the way back.  Then it is time to go.

Sandhill cranes takeoff Southeast Alaska

Along a logging road there is a cluster of eagle activity. There are five immature bald eagles sitting in trees and flying along the roadway. They are sticking around as I my footsteps crunch on the gravel, so there is food nearby that they want to partake of.

These guys are teenagers, and as such occasionally do goofy things like perch on vertical treetops. Bald eagles usually don't get their white-head-and-tail adult plumage until their fifth year. The juveniles have slightly larger flight feathers, sort of like training wheels for aerial critters, and appear larger than the adults.

Immature bald eagle giving me the stern, over the shoulder look.

Alongside a wide spot in the road a trapper has dumped the remains of a beaver, giving the carcass to the birds. They have stripped it down to just a few morsels left on the bones,so I leave them to finish their meal.

Miles away, on a drive with my sweetie, we spot another pair of sandhill cranes. He stops the truck well down the road from them, and I slip out the door. To my surprise the cranes walked out into the road!

Why did the sandhill cranes cross the road?

They didn't. They went for a leisurely stroll down the road instead.

Happy birdwatching!

Alaska Beachcomber

More birds of Southeast Alaska:

And way more in the Alaskan Critters index!