DIANA'S BLOG




The Annual Sandhill Crane Migration in Nebraska


Sandhill Cranes(Grus canadensis) landing in the Platte River at sunset near Gibbon, Nebraska during the annual Sandhill Crane migration

This is the sixth year in a row that I have driven out to Kearney, Nebraska to photograph the more than 400,000 Sandhill Cranes migration along the Platte River. Each March the Sandhill Cranes fly through a critical sliver of habitat in North American’s Central Flyway. They spend several weeks along the Platte River resting and eating the leftover corn from the surrounding cornfields, regaining strength for the rest of their journey north. I have been very lucky to see amazing numbers of Sandhill Cranes in the past but this year’s surprise was the large number of endangered Whooping Cranes that I saw among the Sandhill Cranes.

The main reason I got to see so many Whooping Cranes this year is that I met Chad Gideon who lives in Wood River, Nebraska. I call him the “Whooping Crane Whisperer.” Chad has lived in the Wood River area all of his life and he knows how to anticipate the whereabouts of Whooping Cranes. Thanks to his amazing crane spotting I had seven different opportunities to photograph the whoopers in the Platte River, in cornfields and along Interstate 80 (which required parking on a gravel road and hiking down the highway to see the crane). My brother Steven Robinson accompanied me on this trip and we rented Chad’s amazing cabin on the Platte River in Wood River. Steve is the one who found a way to get to the whoopers without scaring them. We were able to watch the Whooping Cranes in the field for hours and get some nice shots of them.


Endangered Whooping Crane (Grus americana) in a cornfield near Wood River, Nebraska during the annual Sandhill Crane migration


Endangered Whooping Crane (Grus americana) in flight over a cornfield near Gibbon, Nebraska during the annual Sandhill Crane migration


Whooping Crane (Grus americana) with two Sandhill Cranes in a cornfield near Gibbon, Nebraska during the annual Sandhill Crane migration


Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) and Whooping Crane (Grus americana) have an altercation on a foggy morning in a cornfield near Gibbon, Nebraska during the annual Sandhill Crane migration


Whooping Crane (Grus americana) in a cornfield with Sandhill Cranes near Gibbon, Nebraska during the annual Sandhill Crane migration


Whooping Crane (Grus americana) in flight with Sandhill Cranes near Wood River, Nebraska during the annual Sandhill Crane migration


Whooping Crane (Grus americana) in flight with Sandhill Cranes near Wood River, Nebraska during the annual Sandhill Crane migration


An endangered Whooping Crane (Grus americana) and two Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) in flight over the Platte River, Nebraska


Sandhill Cranes flying over the Platte River at sunset, Nebraska


Dawn is breaking – Nebraska windmill at sunrise


Three trumpeting Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) in a cornfield near Gibbon, Nebraska


Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) takes flight in the early morning on the Platte River, Nebraska


Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) take flight in the early morning on the Platte River, Nebraska – slow shutter speed


Cows and Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) share a field near the Platte River, Nebraska


Thousands of Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens) in flight above Kearney, Nebraska


Thousands of Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens) in flight above Kearney, Nebraska


Sandhill cranes flying in front of the moon along the Platte River, Nebraska


Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) flying in to roost in the Platte River at sunset near Alda, Nebraska


Sandhill Cranes on a snowy sand bar in the Platte River in the early morning near Wood River, Nebraska


Late afternoon light over the Platte River near our cabin in Wood River, Nebraska


Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) in flight against the setting sun near Wood River, Nebraska

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A Month in Africa

I just returned from a month in East Africa. I spent time in Kenya and Tanzania with photographers Tom Mangelsen, Sue Cedarholm, Howard Arndt and Andy Wolcott. I will be posting photographs as I get them edited. We shot several hundred thousand photographs in the Serengeti, Ndutu, Ngorongoro Crater, Amboseli and Masai Mara. It was my third time in Kenya and Tanzania and it was by far the best trip ever. Thanks for supporting my work and travels.


Elephants in a line, Amboseli National Park, Kenya, East Africa

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Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

We drove from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Masai Mara in Kenya crossing the border at Isebania. Our Kenyan drivers met us there and we said a reluctant goodbye to our Tanzanian drivers. After a simple visa check and pass-through at border control we transferred all our gear to our Kenyan Land Cruisers and headed to Masai Mara. It was a beautiful drive and we were glad we hadn’t flown. The countryside was lovely.

We stayed at the Kichwa Tembo Tented Camps (http://www.andbeyond.com/kichwa-tembo-tented-camp) at Masai Mara so we were able to drive into the reserve before sunrise. As a result we were able to get some spectacular shots of the sun rising over the Masai Mara.

Thanks for following my blog and for supporting my photography! You can buy any of these photographs as prints on my website Buymyphotographs.com/.


Sunrise in Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

Right after sunrise when the light was truly exquisite we continued our game drive and stopped at some incredible sights. We were lucky to encounter this mother and baby elephant right after sunrise near the entrance to the reserve. Watching the baby with its mother and listening to the sounds they made was a real treat.


Mother and baby elephant, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa. These incredibly beautiful animals are threatened by habitat loss and ivory poaching.


Baby elephant leaning up against its mother, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

Our guide spotted this White-browed coucal so I was able to photograph it spreading its wings in the great morning light.


White-browed coucal (Centropus superciliosus) in Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

In my two previous trips to Kenya I had been lucky enough to see many Lilac-breasted rollers. They are such beautiful birds that it’s hard to pass one by. So while others in my Land Cruiser were focused on seeing leopards and cheetahs I was known as the one who couldn’t pass a bird by! It’s true. I’m really glad we stopped for the birds, too!


Lilac-breasted roller (Coracias caudatus) on acacia tree branch in Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) along the Mara River, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Brown snake eagle (Circaetus cinereus) at Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Grey kestrel (Falco ardosiaceus) with butterflies at Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Tawny eagle (Aquila rapax) in acacia tree, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Tawny eagle (Aquila rapax) in flight, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

After stopping to photograph birds we did, of course, come upon a leopard and her cub in a tree. We waited and watched the pair a long time. It was well worth the wait as they interacted and changed positions in the tree branches several times. Leopards stay in the trees during the hot hours of the day and hunt at night when it’s much cooler. I have not seen many leopard cubs so this was a great find.


Leopard and cub spending the hot afternoon in the shade in a tree, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Leopard cub and mother in a tree, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Leopard cub climbing a tree, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

I always like sitting by the watering holes in Africa to see what happens. Waves and waves of animals coming in to drink in the mid morning can be so interesting to photograph. The zebras were usually skittish and would dash out of the water fearing a crocodile or lion was nearby. I took many slow shutter speed exposures to blur the motion as they took off. I set my shutter speed to 1/50s or 1/60s at f/22. The results can be very interesting.


Zebras dashing out of the watering hole, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Zebra running, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Zebra dashing out of the water hole, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

A few years ago while we were in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya, I was lucky enough to witness a male bee-eater displaying for two females. I got the photo and it is one of my best bee-eater shots. You can see it here. On this trip I saw this bee-eater in Masai Mara and photographed him while he flexed his wing. It was a beautiful sight.


White-throated bee-eater (Merops albicollis) flexing a wing, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

In Africa, the “Big Five” game animals are the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros. The term “Big Five” came from big game hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. Luckily, we were only hunting them with our cameras. Here is one of the Big Five, the regal Cape Buffalo. I was lucky to see this one with her very young calf. Our guide thought the calf was just a day or two old.


Cape Buffalo and days-old calf, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

We got to see many baby elephants and it was encouraging to see such strong populations of elephants in Masai Mara. This baby pretended to be eating grass like its mother but then would occasionally go over to mama and get some milk.


Baby elephant nursing, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Elephant in Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


A baby elephant bluff charging our Land Cruiser in Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

We got caught in a rain storm one afternoon and got to photograph these elephants in the rain.


Elephants in the rain, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Baby elephant and mother in the rain, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Mother and baby elephant in Masai Mara as a rain storm approaches, Kenya, East Africa

It’s always fun watching the zebra roll around in the dirt. The official name is “dust bathing” which according to Wikipedia is “an animal behavior characterized by the act of grooming while rolling or moving around in dust, with the purpose of cleaning fur, feathers or skin, and removing parasites.” The zebras seemed to enjoy it a lot.


Zebra rolling around in the dirt, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

We saw lots of antelopes and other animals in Masai Mara. Here are a few.


Waterbucks (Kobus ellipsiprymnus), Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Topi (Damaliscus korrigum) antelope standing on a mound in Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

One morning we were watching wildebeests and zebra cross the Mara River just like they do at migration in the spring and we spotted a leopard on the opposite side of the river. We were amazed to watch as he jumped over rocks in the Mara River and crossed to our side. It was an astonishing sight to see. I call this one “Leaping Leopard.”


Male leopard jumping over rocks in the Mara River, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Leopard jumping over rocks in the Mara River, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Wildebeests and zebras on their way to the Mara River, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Zebra calling to other zebras crossing the Mara River, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Zebra colt playing ‘King of the hill’ in Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


An endangered Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Female lion on a hillside in Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Lion cubs in the grass, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

Another couple of beautiful Masai Mara sunrises.


Sunrise in Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa


Sunrise, Masai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

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