Friday, August 2, 2013

Flying with the Sandhills

This morning I was treated to field upon field of sandhill cranes

Since I moved to Wisconsin, over ten years ago now, my heart has been captured by the sandhill cranes.  Each March, I wait for their arrival; not unlike a child on Christmas eve waiting for Santa to come.  It's always the same.  I hear their first calls in Pheasant Branch Conservancy and I know Spring is on it's way.  No matter where my mind is, or what is going on in my life, their call brings a smile to my face.  I stop dead in my tracks, head tilted to figure out where they are, and let their song envelope me.

Since many of my rides include a stint on Pheasant Branch Road, I am often treated to a quick glimpse of them in the nearby corn fields.  They are, of course, scrounging for the leftovers from last year's harvest.  As the Spring wears on, and the new corn shoots begin to appear, I am sometimes lucky enough to witness baby cranes encircled by their parents.  I can't help but to pull over to the side of the road, careful not to disturb the family, and watch...sometimes for several minutes.  I'm sure this annoys the people I'm riding with to no end, however, these magnificent birds, with wing spans up to seven feet, have a magnetic draw on me.

Ask any of my friends and they will tell you I love all birds--and nature in general--but how often do you get to witness a creature that dates back 2.5 million years (other crane species date back 10 million years)?  You've got to admit that's pretty amazing!  Since I grew up in Minneapolis, I never got to see these fabulous birds.  Raptors, egrets, herons, yes...but no cranes.  Their song is one not many would describe as being beautiful--at times sounding like a sick goose.  They are awkward at landing and perform the funniest looking dances when mating, but are pure magic to me.  Once in a great while, I'll be treated to one of the best experiences around, riding my bike while one or a flock of them fly next to me.  It is at this moment, I feel like I'm flying.  The road drops away and I feel myself drifting over the landscape.  Something I will never tire of.

I leave you with a few poems I love about cranes:

We thought they were gulls at first,
while they were distant-
The two cranes flying out of a natural morning,
They circled twice about our house and sank,
Their long legs drooping, down over the wood.
We saw their wings flash white,
Frayed at the black tip,
And heard their harsh cry, like a rusty screw.

Down in the next field, shy and angular,
They darted their long necks in the grass for fish.
They would not have us close, but shambled coyly,
Ridiculous, caught on the ground. Yet our fields
Under their feet became a fen: the sky
That was blue July became watery November,
And echoing with the cries of foreign birds. 
Anne Barbara Ridler

No comments:

Post a Comment