Sunday, January 14, 2007

Cranes

Still pouring rain here. Yesterday, it held off while Laddie and I took our country tour. First, down to the Lake Bisineau tract, where we found that the deer had evidently had a convention around the new pond. Tracks crisscrossing all over the place. We didn't stay long as too many of the "roads" were muddy, and I wasn't about to get stuck a mile or so back in the woods.

So we moved on to Raft Bayou and watched cranes (herons, egrets?) on the expanse of water that last week shimmered like diamonds in the sunlight, but on this overcast day, seemed quietly reflective. I think they are Sandhill Cranes, but I'm not sure. There is a grey one that keeps far away from the other two, the white ones, and he is much more skittish, flying off after watching the car creep down the road for a few minutes. He did this last week, too. Cranes, herons, and egrets are often confused, so I'm not sure if they are all even the same, since the other two are white.

Their flight is impressive and graceful, for they are such large birds and their legs are so long; but once they spread those great wings, they seem even more spectacular as they lift slowy from the water.

This information comes from Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge:

Cranes are unique and are among the most spectacular of the bird families. In fact, they have captured the human imagination as few other birds have. Famed naturalist and pioneering wildlife biologist Aldo Leopold called them, "nobility in the midst of mediocrity."

Cranes live a very long time, maybe 15-20 years or more in the wild and much more in captivity (a captive Siberian crane lived more than 80 years). Cranes are serially monogamous, meaning they have very strong pair bonds and "mate for life."

Cranes dance! Alone or in groups, cranes will bow their heads, leap in the air, and throw sticks or other "nesting material." Cranes also perform many interesting threat displays and other ritualized postures.

Because of these behaviors, their stately beauty, and their haunting calls, cranes are featured in the folklore of many cultures. They are symbols of a happy marriage and long life in the Far East. Any art museum with an Asian theme would likely have crane art. The royal courts of many countries kept captive cranes as status symbols. Crane postures have been captured in the moves of modern dance as well as ancient martial arts. The crane is the national bird of South Africa and other countries.

There are 15 species of cranes in the world, found on all continents except South America and Antarctica. Besides being one of the most interesting bird families, cranes are among the most endangered. Eleven of the 15 are considered at risk of extinction. Two crane species are found in North America, the endangered whooping crane and the wide-ranging sandhill cranes.

Here is a link to a National Geographic site with some gorgeous pictures.

The rain held off while we returned to town and went to dinner, and the down pour didn't start until I was almost home. It was a good day.

9 comments:

  1. So peaceful...These trips to the surrounding areas you take with Laddie and share with us are so special...You live in such a unique part of the country and I am always happy to go along on your jaunts...wonderful post today...

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  2. My parents have sandhill cranes where they live in Florida. I am always impressed that they can fly as they are so big. It is also interesting to see them sleep standing up with their head tucked under their wing.

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  3. Debby -The cranes are really beautiful and next time, I hope, I'll have the camera with me!

    Jules - They are huge, aren't they? I like watching watching those long flexible necks, too.

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  4. I really enjoyed that Jen and thanks for the links to the crane images.
    I think your cranes are a bit like our herons(which I love), but a lot more flamboyant and active. i have never seen ours dancing and I see them every day from our window.

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  5. Mags - Yes, they look very much alike. You have such a fascinating view from your window...a never-ending panoply. I can't imagine being able to see it each day!

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  6. We just watched a brilliant doco on whooping cranes the other night - and their site has audio files so you can compare calls: http://www.operationmigration.org/work_wcranes.html>
    Our native cranes are called brolgas and are exquisite when they dance. I've only seen them once but would love to spend weeks just watching them...

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  7. i love cranes, and thank you for providing some good reading!

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  8. Caitlin - good to hear from you! Cranes are fascinating to watch, aren't they?

    Jude - I love the ability to research quickly on the net! Thanks for visiting...

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  9. I'd love to come down and go crane, heron, whatever, watching with you. I'm sure you get some in the bayous that we don't see in Colorado

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Good to hear from you!