A Need to Be Among the Cranes

| 4/19/2011 1:24:55 PM

Cranes 1

It’s spring or promises to be, and so, again, I need to be among the Cranes. There’s an actual ache in my breastbone which pulls me to get my feet wet in the meadows, to watch the Sandhill Cranes eat and dance in the farm fields, to hear them wake and call to one another at dawn, and to see them ride thermals on the brighter, south wind days, kettle, then fly to the river to roost together on the sandbars in the river at dusk.

This year I didn’t get out to see the Spring Crane migration on the 80-mile Big Bend of the braided river Platte until the first weekend in April. I had planned on going the last weekend in March, but the bluster of ice and snow kept me home reading by the fireplace. One year, I saw them on an 80-degree last day in February.

Though the Platte River has only been flowing for maybe 10,000 years or so, fossil evidence says that the Cranes have been migrating through this area for 9 million years or more. The adult Sandhill Crane is gray with a red crown and stands between three and four feet tall. They weigh in at between 6 and 12 pounds, have a 6- or 7-foot wingspan, and live from 20 to 40 years.  

Given that they are migratory, Cranes eat whatever they find wherever they are. They spend their days in the North American Central Flyway and what is now Nebraska gleaning leftover grain from last season’s crops, though every once in awhile a little rodent becomes a meal, as do small reptiles and amphibians, earthworms, plant tubers, and grubs. Sandhill Cranes find their way over the globe through the collective memory of the flock, teaching their young and keeping them close for their first three years.

I have photographs, journal entries, audio, and poems of and about the Sandhill Cranes, but the pull to be among them lives in my forward body. Every year that I am within a five or six hour drive to the Big Bend of the Platte River, I join them for a dusk, a dawn, a day.         

Crane Drawing  

4/25/2011 11:40:58 AM

I share your love of these amazing Sandhill Cranes. I also would have loved to see the geese so thick that they darkened the sky. I live in the San Luis Valley Colorado. We get migratory visits from these awesome birds. There is even a festival to celebrate their arrival.

Maria Cadwallader
4/20/2011 9:53:46 AM

Linnea, this is beautiful. I love the text and photos and drawing. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

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