~by Susi Pittman
February 8, 2017: Look! The crane…the crane!
Monday this week, the sky was especially clear and the southern winds warming and brisk. It was a perfect day for flying and God did not disappoint. The migrating Greater Sandhill Cranes from the great white North came flocking in to our North Florida wetlands and prairies for some “much needed” food and refreshment.
They are welcomed visitors from the northern United States and southern Canada where they live most of the year from Maine to Washington and around the Great Lakes. The eastern U.S. and Canadian populations migrate through the east-central United States to wintering grounds from southern Georgia to central Florida. Birds from the western part of the breeding range tend to winter along the Texas Gulf Coast.
The huge flocks that arrived by the hundreds here, came in with hours of raucous noise and celebration. Their calls loud and distinctive can actually be heard very well from as far up as 3,000 feet. And when you think how these birds can live up to 40 years old, I am sure I am looking at some old friends.
My cats especially find them to be awesome entertainment. As they circle the property in large groups, wings spread out to seven feet, they make a huge presentation as they organize to land in the adjacent grassland. I quietly walked to the edge of the pine forest where I could get a good glimpse of the lively numbers of arrivals. They are majestic looking birds, with their distinctive red cap like a Cardinal of the Church.
All Sandhill Cranes are opportunistic fliers. They are capable of flying 25 – 35 mph, traveling a usual 200-300 miles a day, but can reach 500 miles with a good tail wind. The rely tremendously on thermal updrafts and tail winds to carry them along. Thermals are rising columns of warm air and when southerly winds start to blow you will see cranes testing them for flight conditions. Cranes ride thermals so efficiently that they have been seen flying over Mt. Everest (~28,000 feet).
They arrive like clockwork each February and certainly stir up all my natural neighbors with their sheer numbers. It is but a brief moment in the year’s panorama of natural events, but one that cannot go unnoticed by any creature within the surrounding countryside.
It is a great gift to live out here in the country, where the welcome mat is for man and creature and creations doorbell rings with the sounds of each season.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Susi Pittman is founder of CatholicStewardsofCreation.com and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; a member of the St. John’ s Catholic Writers Guild; a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the National Wildlife Federation, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.
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