Monday, December 6, 2010

Sandhill Cranes!

A sextet of Sandhill Cranes wafts through an ice-blue sky in northwest Ohio.

Few avian spectacles are more dramatic than a migrant flock of cranes passing overhead. Their massive size easily draws the eye, but as often as not, it is the sound that lures one to look aloft. The cranes talk, nearly constantly, speaking in primeval rattles that might give even a creationist pause, to rethink the age-old truths of evolution. It's as if Pterodactyls were set loose from the pages of an illustrated volume depicting the Triassic.

A group of migrant Sandhill Cranes absolutely command the ether, and even the most casual of nature observers notice them and stop and stare, dumbstruck. Then seek out some authority to call, for an explanation of just what it was that they witnessed :-) They aren't difficult to identify; Sandhills have a six-and-a-half foot wingspan (longer than nearly everyone reading this is tall!) and weigh over 10 pounds. Unlike herons, cranes fly with their neck at full extension; that trait, along with their long gangly legs trailing, creates the look of a flying cross.

Now is the time to be watching the skies, here in Ohio. Yesterday and today, many reports totalling hundreds of cranes came in, nearly all noting flocks numbering into the dozens that were straightlining it south. Peak passages are usually intense and of short duration, and somewhere in the first two weeks of December. There'll probably be more on the wing tomorrow, so keep your eyes to the sky and your ears keen for THIS SOUND.

1 comment:

Julie Zickefoose said...

Heard on the news tonight that Kentucky has just announced a hunting season on sandhill cranes, without opportunity for public comment. Perhaps they learned from Tennessee's experience, where public comments are flooding in, that this is going to be a very unpopular hunt. I'll be making another post on 10,000 this week about the Tennessee proposal. My first post got over 100 comments:

Wisconsin, home of Baraboo's International Crane Foundation, will also propose a hunt in the near future. Just as birders start seeing them in numbers, it seems it's time to start shooting them.

Sorry to hijack your comments section, Jim, but I think birders need to know these proposals and seasons are afoot.

All Stirred Up in Southeast Ohio