Since my return from Svalbard I’ve set aside a few hours each evening to go exploring in my local nature sites. This is a time when many young are experiencing their surroundings with the constant attention of adults – so you never know what one will encounter.

Several sandhill crane couples have nested in and around my hometown every spring for years and a drive to one of their past sites last week revealed a young crane, called a colt, wandering under cover of the marsh.

On my first visit last week the adults noticed me standing at the side of the road and, no doubt out of concern, they seemed to encourage the young one to lie down out of sight. I swear that one adult actually used its beak to push the colt down.  That was my cue to leave and so I wandered around this marsh to find a green heron preening on a fallen tree trunk.

The following evening I returned to the same marsh to see if the cranes might be in view and to my delight the family was foraging out in the open – although at a fair distance. A lady hiking past told me she sees them every evening. Maybe, they are only shy when someone is aiming a camera lens their way. But this time they went about their business ignoring me.

I managed a few shots as they wandered about. The colt watched the adults and was occasionally fed by them.

Eventually, the colt came out into the open and posed for this shot. I was struck by the size of its legs. Of course over the coming months it will ‘grow into’ those legs and be ready to fly with its parents to their winter spot.

They are beautiful birds and it might come as a surprise but they are hunted in parts of Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon).  And, there is a proposal for the return of hunting sandhill cranes in areas of northern Ontario and Quebec. Farmers complain they will settle in a field and eat much of their crop.

It’s another example of how complex nature conservation actually is. Regardless, seeing them and having an opportunity to photograph them, is a treat.

————————————————————————————————————————————–Recently, my feature on killing neck snares, which are used in wildlife trapping, was published in the Toronto Star.  Here is a link to this controversial piece if you would like to read it (please copy and paste into your browser) :




  1. Hi Paul-Love your words and wonderful photography:) I went for a run yesterday in a kind of marshland near my home here in White Rock and saw the largest blue heron I’ve ever scene… it was gorgeous and I thought of you and wished you’d been there to photograph it:) Thanks for sharing!

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hey Lynn, great to hear from you AND that you are still running! Its amazing what one can experience being outdoors. I am pleased you enjoyed this encounter! Keep it up!

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