Yes, cranes again; they keep on coming back on this blog section. Fascinated by them since my early birding years in the mid seventies. When my wife Linda and me we went birding to the Argonne in France we occasionally saw and heard them flying over to the south. Where were they going? We did not see them on the ground here.
We soon found out: they were heading to Lac du Der, a newly constructed artificial lake. The birds used the islands in the lake as a safe stopover and sleeping place protected from foxes etc. and from humans which is the worst predator on this planet. So we saw the numbers growing on Lac du Der from a few hundreds end of the seventies to often more then 100000 nowadays. Over the years we visited all the places in Europe where they sleep on their migration south. And my interest in photographing them grew too and certainly after retirement the balance of birding and photographing inclined to the latter.
On these stops you can make wonderful flight pictures (as you can see elsewhere on this website). Apart from that you can see them feeding in the fields around these places during the day, but that does often result in interesting picture: an arable field or meadow is not the nicest surrounding.
I wanted more. Photographing them while resting and sleeping was the ultimate goal. The search for opportunities was disappointing. Nowhere on this places I knew were there possibilities to get close enough. But then came in Jan Goddefroy, or Mr. Jan Gear (https://mrjangear.com). Producer of innovative gear for wildlife photographers and he brought me in contact with Lukasz Boch and Marcin Baranowski of Elizjum (https://www.elizjumbb.com/elizjumakademia).
They are enthusiastic users of the Mr. Jan Gear as I am.This was the thing: approaching the cranes with floating hides!
After two failed attempts I finally succeeded in fulfilling the dream last week. The first time the birds did not show up and I had to cancel and on the second attempt the pilots of Ryanair decided to go on strike! But the third time was right on.
So there I finally was in Poland with Lukasz and Marcin, and it was looking good, the birds were there and the conditions were perfect the whole week: clear open weather with early morning fog; morning temperature of 12° and a water temperature of 20°: perfect.
Next morning started at 03,45h. Driving to the location, installing the hides, getting ready yourself and getting the photo gear ready, it all takes some time and you have to get to the cranes before it gets too bright. So in the water with the extra camouflaged floating hides. in the dark keeping close behind Marcin because when he was 5 meters from me he became invisible; it was also important to really follow his footsteps because on the way there were sometimes some deeper passages were I would loose ground, which I easily do with my mere 160cm! But Marcin did an outstanding guiding job and it was immediately obvious that he knows the area extremely well and knows all the potholes and possible booby traps. The approach had to be done very slowly, but I was happy with that because also a large section of the road had to be done on the knees in the shallower water.
The excitement grows and grows when you hear you are approaching groups of cranes; you do not see them yet or maybe sometimes some silhouettes but you hear them: what an heartwarming sound this is so close; Marcin settled down in what looked to be a perfect location when it got brighter; we were very close to the cranes and in the right position for the sunrise, and there was fog. 400 or 500 mm was right and even a 300mm would do, even a 70-200mm! From then on it was staying still and waiting for the light; and listen to all the wildlife sounds around you: heaven! When it got brighter you also realized in what a natural beautiful surrounding you were in the middle of nowhere; beaver was swimming around us and red deer was hurling everywhere.
So if you want to have a hell of a time with the cranes go for it, Under the guidance of Lukasz and Marcin you will have a marvelous time. It is hard work but you will be rewarded, and in my feeling, the reward is so much more intense if you have to work for it . After each session I came back with a warm happy feeling inside. You had been part of nature amid the cranes. I mean that good pictures from a fixed hide with prepared setting photographing from a comfortable chair with coffee by the hand does not give me the same level of satisfaction. I hate fixed hides.
But let's get on to the pictures.
Have pleasure in watching and reading and up to the next.