Monday, January 12, 2009

More Crane Madness

Georgia and I went for a walk on Payne's Prairie this weekend. It was a blustery, miserable day, but tons of people were walking the La Chua trail because of the cranes.

Thousands of sandhill cranes have migrated down from northern parts to gather on the prairie (with native, non-migrating sandhills, which are a distinct but identical-looking subspecies) and eat insects, grubs, and frogs. They also spend a lot of time just standing around, talking to each other. If you click on this photo you can see a small fraction of the crowd that was there.

The photo also features two endangered whooping cranes, which hang out with the sandhills. There are only about thirty year-round whooping crane Florida residents -- and just 350 total wild whoopers in the wild. Of these, 68 of these migrate from Wisconsin to Florida every year (the juveniles with the guidance of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership), and the rest fly from northwest Canada to winter on the Texas coast.

The noise of the crane conference was unbelievable. But my favorite part of the visit was watching the sandhills land. They're a strange combination of elegant and goofy. When they're coming down from a flight, they're stretched parallel to the ground, with their long legs stretched behind them. Then, about fifty feet above the ground, they lower their legs like landing gear. Multiple cranes flying next to each other do this almost in unison. Thus they approach the ground, looking extremely intent and somewhat fragile. It makes me smile every time.

The prairie looked stark and beautiful that day.

Of course, there are always some wet areas.

The other interesting thing that happened that day was that there was a huge water moccasin parked next to the trail. All these people kept warning us about it. Yet those same people stood ten feet away from the snake, taking photographs and loudly talking about it. The snake did not look happy.

Me, I took a photo and then walked past it unmolested, on the other side of the trail.

1 comment:

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