Pixley National Wildlife Refuge 11-12-2011

The day started out with such promise.  It was still raining but was supposed to break soon.  I love trying to capture images on stormy days – at least when the camera is not getting wet.  This evening we were going to see part of the annual migration of the Sandhill Cranes at the Pixley National Wildlife Refuge.  In my mind I was looking for a beautiful sunset after the storm, images of the cranes filling my lens and really hoping for a combination of the two.

As predicted, the storm passed and the partly cloudy skies over Visalia and the Sierras looked awesome for an evening of photography.  Excitement is building.  Rush home from work, grab the camera gear, don’t forget the Wife and off we go.

Alas, the dream image was not to be had this evening.  Far from it.  The crisp clear skies with well defined clouds turned hazy (like getting ready for fog tomorrow).  And the flocks of birds decided to spend their day foraging to the north and west of the marshlands.  When they returned in mass, it was not only not over us, it was not even near us.  I don’t own lenses that big to reach that far.

So what you see in images are going to be deleted but they still tell a story and that is what the rest of this post is about.  And I plan to return because the promise of great images is still there.

Sun Setting over Pixley National Wildlife Reguge

Sun Setting over Pixley National Wildlife Reguge

I had never been here before so I was surprised that this was more a grasslands habitat than marshes with trees.  Of course, if I had read their website first, I would have known better.

The Pixley biologist said the number of Cranes was presently around 3,000 and by January peaks around 7,000.  They usually arrive right about sunset which already created an issue to photograph them.  Moving objects in darkness is bound to be blurred.

As we awaited the main event, we saw flocks of Seagulls arriving from wherever they were scavenging their food.  I have seen them in large numbers around the county dumps.

Seagulls Arriving

Seagulls Arriving

For me the most fascinating part of the evening was seeing the thousands of White-faced Ibis arriving.  Still images can not capture the gracefulness of the swarms as they swooped, swirled and dove.  Some huge swarms would be swirling around and upon some hidden signal suddenly drop out of the sky to earth and disappear – all of them at once!  Again, they were too far away for detail image capture.

White-faced Ibis Arriving

White-faced Ibis Arriving

White-faced Ibis - Another Swarm

White-faced Ibis – Another Swarm

Here is a short video clip of the Ibis since still images don’t do it justice:

Click on Image to See Video

As dark was settling in, the Sandhill Cranes started to arrive by the hundreds at a time.  You could actually hear them before you could see them.  They are a raucous bunch.  Unfortunately most were coming from the far side of the Refuge (north and west) and landing on the far side too.  None flew from the south over our observation platform.  Here are a few images from those that flew the closest.

Arrival of Sandhill Cranes

Arrival of Sandhill Cranes

No close up inages today.

There are more images and video clips in my gallery here:  http://www.creatorspalette.com/California/Tulare-County/Pixley-National-Wildlife/

Why So Far Away?

Apparently the record rains last December flooded the Preserve and one of the retaining levies closest to this observation platform failed.  It was only repaired a few weeks ago when the water was lowest and thus this corner has the least water right now.  So the water fowl have settled into the further reaches of the wetlands making it the disappointment  we had this visit.  Our main hope for good images was to have the Cranes fly overhead since they would not be settling in close by.  By next winter, assuming an average rain year, all should be back to normal.

Low Water

This area in front of the observation platform is usually filled with water but with the repair to the levy it has not been allowed to be filled until now.  With the rainy season coming up, it should be back to normal.

My friend, Tim Scott (an extraordinary photographer), captured this image a few years ago which helps motivate me to return.

Sandhill Crane Courtship Dance – Image by Tim Scott.  Click on Image to see more of Tim’s Outstanding Images

I’ll be back.

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About Ron Ludekens

God created a marvelous world full of wonderful sights and people. He is the Creator and it is His Palette of beauty that Ron Ludekens tries to capture as photographic images. Images of nature or images of people and their lives - both reflect the handiwork of the Creator. Ron is a photographer living in Visalia, California - part of the great Central Valley. He is immediately surrounded by agriculture and all the hard working people that feed our world. A short distance away are the grand Sierra Nevada mountains, impressive National Parks and, wider still, the vast diversity that California has to offer. Ron is one of the family owners of the L.E. Cooke Co Wholesale Nursery - a leader in the horticulture industry of North America. Even on the job, his camera is always near by. His photos for the nursery trade have been published in print and around the websites of nurseries across America. Ron is also a leader in his church and its missions. Ron's photography has been a resource the church uses in its communications and message. Plus photos of all the fun things we do are shared among members and friends. Ron also loves capturing precious moments in lives of people. Weddings, senior portraits, graduations, family gatherings, maternity and special events. Ron will not shoot more than four weddings a year to provide the attention to detail and followup that is required for such an important milestone event in the lives of the couple. Ron can be reached at 559-732-7165 or cell 559-967-5370.
This entry was posted in Birds, California, Nature - Displaying the Handiwork of God, Photography - General Topics, Tulare County, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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