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I had planned earlier this year for a series of visits to the Isenberg sandhill crane reserve outside Lodi but work and life kept me away. I managed to find time for one last trip with my girlfriend in mid-December to see the sunrise above Isenberg one last time for the season.

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Overcast skies greeted us as we arrived an hour before sunrise. Few cranes called in the darkness as a light rain fell. Our late season arrival has seen a vast majority of the cranes move along in their migration. I set up a camera and waited as dawn’s first rays illuminated the cloud deck in the distance.

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Dawn can by a magical time to photograph, the first sliver of the sun’s disk arriving on the horizon and the explosion of warm hues is spectacular but our clouded sky revealed a cooler palette of colors as day broke.

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Deep purple hues mingled with a lone break in the clouds where the sunlight could be seen. As sunrise passed a cool blue hue settled across the wetlands as the few hundreds of cranes arose and began their morning flights. It may not have been the fiery sunrise I wanted but the morning calm and ethereal colors were a beautiful scene on its own.

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I will wait a another year for the first light of dawn to break over the wetlands as the cranes return in October on their yearly flight. My camera will return to the trail after the New Year to new hikes and more adventures.