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I never saw a Sandhill Crane before, but let me share my first looks with you!

We were up in Woodland, Washington on March 12th, in search of the Bald Eagles rumored to be chasing the smelt run. We only found a few eagles - that's another story - but we did find a "dance" of cranes. There were dozens grazing in a field in a misty sunrise. And more kept arriving ---

And arriving --

Watching this arrival, I can see why they're sometimes referred to as a swoop of cranes --

Sandhill Cranes mate for life. They seem like a peaceful lot.

They are noted for their courtship dances. I don't know whether this pair was dancing or fighting but they were fascinating to watch.

Sandhill Cranes are big: 4.5 to 5 feet tall and 10 to 14 pounds. Their wingspan can exceed five feet. They aren't generally afraid of humans but this group didn't want to get too close.

Once they noticed us, the went on alert

Then a few started a slow exodus ---

Followed by a general rush for the exits.

And soon that were all air borne.

I hope we have more opportunities to observe these birds. Understanding them increases my ability to photograph them. And, they're just plain interesting.

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