December 10, 2022: The Cranes Are Back at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

December 10, 2022, I visited the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and the nearby new wildlife photo blind. This was my first visit of the late fall and winter of 2022. The cranes were back with cacophonous joy and celebration.






From the Observation Building through the glass, hundreds of sandhill cranes and a single whooping crane foraged in the grassy field and corn stubble to the NNE.


The Atkeson Cypress Trail departed as in prior years from just south of the Visitors Center, closed for renovations until next summer. The new WIldlife Photo Blind and Trail wondered to SW of the Center across a new boardwalk.


The boardwalk exit into the riparian hardwood forest adjacent to the cypress swamp.


My 2:09 video takes us through the hardwood stand to the blind:


The blind provides sheltered access to an impoundment flooded from November through spring, providing the principal habitat attracting amazing flocks of sandhills, ducks, and geese as well as many other associated species.


The view to the north from the blind encompasses the sweep of open land and water bordered by forest. The Observation Building sits hidden to the right beyond the nose of forest extending to the water.


Forest on Way to Wildlife Blind


I’m a sucker for the riparian hardwood forests of the Refuge. Surprises multiply my appreciation. Along the short trail to the bind, an eastern red cedar rises in the foreground, backgrounded by the Atkeson cypress stand (below left). The hardwood canopy itself offers additional magic hidden in plain sight. Always visible and requiring only a look skyward, the crowns represent Nature’s continuing battle among forest trees for the site’s most precious resource…sunlight.  To the victors go the spoils.


In short, the winners survive, at least for the moment. The losers fall aside, unable to sustain life. These two individuals stand dead, crumbling, and being consumed by decomposers as they await gravity’s final pull.


Although I passed eager to see the views from the new blind, I found fascination and reward within the hardwood forest.

Thoughts and Reflections


I offer these observations:

  • New trails and wildlife observation enhancements reward my every venture into Nature.
  • I shall never tire of the seasonal gift of tens of thousands of sandhill cranes. 
  • Funny how I would pay good money to see the beauty, magic, wonder, and awe of what Nature provides for free!

Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire, Inform, and Reward you!


Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2023 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at


Reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.


  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!


Steve’s Three Books


I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

  • I love hiking and exploring in Nature
  • I see images I want to (and do) capture with my trusty iPhone camera
  • I enjoy explaining those images — an educator at heart
  • I don’t play golf!
  • I actually do love writing — it’s the hobby I never needed when my career consumed me
  • Judy suggested my writing is in large measure my legacy to our two kids, our five grandkids, and all the unborn generations beyond
  • And finally, perhaps my books and Blogs could reach beyond family and touch a few other lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's Books

January 2017 at the WNWR Refuge


All three of my books (Nature Based LeadershipNature-Inspired Learning and LeadingWeaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship to the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any and all from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.