Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fascination

Sandhill Crane, Anne Cook
"It was fascination
I know
And it might have ended
Right then, at the start
Just a passing glance
Just a brief romance
And I might have gone
On my way
Empty hearted"
-- Nat King Cole, "Fascination"

Except these were cranes. Just Sandhill Cranes. Not the exotic Asian birds you see in Japanese art, not the endangered Whooping Cranes, but run-of-the-mill Sandhill Cranes.

But really, is any crane just run-of-the-mill? Is any bird just run-of-the-mill?

Every birder has some story about the precise moment when they became a birder. Jack Conner does a wonderful recounting of his realistic entry into the passion in his "The Complete Birder," a topic for another post. These stories often revolve around some awe-inspiring moment, when a majestic avian being did something supernatural. At least, supernatural to we earth-bound humans, but likely mundane to the creature that did it.

I like to think this is what happened this spring in Suntree, Florida, in a community that hosted a pair of nesting Sandhill Cranes. I don't know the complete story, I was merely the recipient of a link to a slideshow depicting a pair of cranes that nested spitting distance to houses, people, traffic, and ordinary human activities. The images of the birds are, as you would expect, beautiful; I've always found cranes awkwardly beautiful. And so tender and doting with their offspring.

But my favorite shots from the collection are those that highlight the crane-watchers. Adults that look like they've never really noticed birds before (likely they haven't), kids gawking like their latest video game purchase has come alive. Adults with cameras with lenses longer than their arms (and possibly their bank accounts), kids with cameras they probably just learned how to point-and-shoot.

And my favorite, a shot of three kids, seated calmly on the shore of the pond, with a crane-parent just strides away in the cattails. A moment that simply says, "harmony."

But don't take my word for it, see for yourself. Visit Robert Grover's photo site, then click on "slideshow." It's well worth the visit, not only to get an up-close-and-personal view of the cranes, but to witness the entrance of new members to the birdwatching community, though they may not yet realize it.

Photo credit: Sandhill Crane, by Ann Cook
Blog title credit: Nat King Cole, "Fascination."

3 comments:

DarinS said...

I just saw the slideshow and did a little googling... too my shock and disappointment I found the following article I am pasting here......

Florida Today Article....May 30, 2007

"Robert Grover's heart sank Wednesday as he drove past one of the sandhill cranes that he and dozens of others had been photographing and observing for weeks.

The adult crane lay dead near its nest on Interlachen Road in Suntree.
"It looks pretty obvious it was hit by a car, it was right by the roadside," Grover said.

He spotted the dead crane's mate near the nest. The pair's chick has been missing for two weeks. People along Interlachen and nearby roads had treated the crane couple and their hatchling like celebrities, ever since the birds built their nest in a high-traffic area over the shallow, mucky edge of the pond more than a month ago.

Some days, as many as 30 people gathered to admire and photograph the cranes as the female sat on the eggs and the male stood guard. Cranes generally lay two eggs, but usually only one chick survives. The cranes seemed to revel in all the attention. The birds waltzed by houses surrounding the pond, foraged for roots and insects and made dogs bark. Usually, the fuzzy, brown chick could be seen hobbling close behind.
Grover suspects a predator may have gotten the Suntree chick. "It was doing great and the parents were so doting," he said. "Everybody's been talking about what happened to the chick."

It's against the law to feed, molest, capture, sell, hurt, kill or steal their eggs or nests, because sandhill cranes are a threatened species protected by state law.
About 5,000 cranes live statewide"

The really distrubing thing is that this the 3rd time this has happened to a mating pair with offspring this season. Now sandhills are only out and about during the daylight hours. They are fairly large birds and they move very slowly. When they cross a road they are careful to wait until there's no nearby approaching traffic. But they do cross slowly and its not uncommon to see a line of cars standing and waiting for the sandhills to complete their crossing.

The point here is that they don't jump in front of your car. To hit a sandhill you have to do it intentionally or you are going way too fast, or you are so completely distracted that you're not watching the road.

The various incidents just seem to me to show a disregard and a lack of respect for wildlife. In my little area we have managed to kill 6 adults and 4 chicks out of the 5000 sandhills state-wide. The really sad thing is that when all the cranes, egrets, and herons are gone most folks won't even notice the difference.

DarinS said...

I am so sorry... when I copied and pasted the news article, part of someone else's blog was tacked onto the end. These are not my own comments - and I cannot remember where I copied them from - so I apologize out into the void for having made it look like I myself had written them. The below are the other person's comments. Sorry!!!!!

***The really distrubing thing is that this the 3rd time this has happened to a mating pair with offspring this season. Now sandhills are only out and about during the daylight hours. They are fairly large birds and they move very slowly. When they cross a road they are careful to wait until there's no nearby approaching traffic. But they do cross slowly and its not uncommon to see a line of cars standing and waiting for the sandhills to complete their crossing.

The point here is that they don't jump in front of your car. To hit a sandhill you have to do it intentionally or you are going way too fast, or you are so completely distracted that you're not watching the road.

The various incidents just seem to me to show a disregard and a lack of respect for wildlife. In my little area we have managed to kill 6 adults and 4 chicks out of the 5000 sandhills state-wide. The really sad thing is that when all the cranes, egrets, and herons are gone most folks won't even notice the difference.***

noflickster said...

Hi darins - Thank you for posting the follow-up, it's tragic that their nesting attempt ended with at least one adult dead as well as the chick. Especially tragic is that the death could have likely been avoided, when considering the accidentally-included comments (while I like to give credit when credit's due, I'm happy those comments were included: they shed some light on what might have contributed to this unfortunate end).

Given recent stories, such as kids stoning a duck to death and a man killing a pet duck in a hotel lobby, I wouldn't put intentional killing out of the realm of possibility, but it seems the other two scenarios (speeding or distracted driving) are very likely.

And while I mostly wish the cranes had nested in a large, expansive piece of habitat away from detrimental human effects like cars, part of me is really glad these cranes nested where they did. Hopefully their lesson will be learned by the many who witnessed these birds that achieved celebrity status.
--Mike

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