Shivering in the dawn light at the Isenberg Crane Reserve outside Lodi this morning I tried my best not to shake the camera too much. The rain were a few drops every now and then while the wind whistled a numbing cold tune across my fingers. Out in font of me thousands of Sandhill Cranes cackled in the cold morning air during their dawn flights into the rising sun in search of food.
After last months Halloween night visit to the reserve to watch the cranes congregate during their sunset arrival at the wetlands we decided to make a return trip to watch their sunrise departures as they forage the countryside for food. A weekend of rain didn't dampen our plans as we left Tracy at 5:30 am for the wetlands outside Lodi.
I tracked the storm front that rolled through Tracy early Sunday morning on a doppler web site with my iPhone as Alice drove to the reserve. Our plan was to arrive at dawn to be in place before the sun rise shortly before 7:00 a.m. As we neared the reserve the first light of dawn cracked through the clouds and we could see the line of cranes already heading skyward.
At the reserve we set up in the rain and wind and watched as waves of cranes and geese flew past on the morning routes. The sun slid in and out through the layer of clouds filing in from the west as the changing light splayed across the landscape.
Quickly I thought this shoot would be less about the cranes and more for the dramatic light spilling across the sky and lighting the clouds. The cranes gave an added composition as the sun rose. Colors changed from deep early morning blues to the red and yellows of the sunrise and then back again as cloud layers obscured the sun's rays. The setting moon glowed with a fiery brilliance among the clouds.
After about an hour of chasing the cranes around the road we packed up and headed home. Our sunrise adventure to the Isenberg Crane Reserve is another chapter watching these amazing birds. We wrap up our crane adventure for the year with a tour to the sunset landing wetland with docents in late December.