Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Sandhill Cranes Return


A sure sign that spring is returning to the ranch is the arrival of the sandhill cranes. These large and delicate birds travel thousands of miles from the banks of the Rio Grande River to a final destination for some, the Salmon River in Idaho. Along the way groups drop off in summer nesting grounds near mudflats, around reservoirs, and moist agricultural areas, finding rich sources of food for survival and safety from human encroachment. And so it is, some groups stop off in the Elk River Valley.

Sandhill cranes, with a wing span of six feet, are a long-necked, long-legged species. Their trumpet is distinctive, sounding much like a French horn. A pair of sandhill cranes always returns to our meadows sometime in April. I usually hear them overhead before I see them. Their coloring acts as a very effective camouflage and makes it difficult to spot them, particularly when they are roaming the meadows.

Those of us who live here always relish this annual return: their arrival reaffirms a still stable rhythm to an increasingly chaotic world.

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