Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Promise of Spring

In mid-February, Mother Nature has given us a break from the dreary relentless winter cold, snow and wind. Instead, we are enjoying a hint of Spring to come. Everyone notices different signs of Spring. I saw the green sprouts of wild onions and poison hemlock among the brown grasses at a park. But the bird songs are always the most reliable clue, and I begin to notice them every year after Groundhogs Day in early February. You can't mistake the conk-kor-ee of the first Red Winged Blackbird in the cattails.
But you really know Spring will come when you hear the first flock of Sandhill Cranes flying north overhead, with their unique call. Does anyone know how to describe that call? The International Crane Foundation website says they call a "loud, rattling kar-r-r-o-o-o," while the Baker Sanctuary generally describes it as a repeated series of trumpeting “garoo-a-a-a.” See, they can't come up with anything recognizable either. But you know it when you hear them, and I always smile and run outside to look. The Kentucky bird list has been full of people posting their sucess with the Cranes at the small community of Cecilia, Ky, about an hour's drive from Louisville. My birding buddy Del says our usual Crane locale in Brownstown, IN has no Cranes at all this year. Apparently the farmers planted soy beans rather than corn last year due to late season flooding, and the Cranes prefer to feed in the corn stubble.
So I got the directions, and drove out in the country this morning. The bird list has reported thousands of Cranes in Cecilia over the last few weeks. Either I'm at the tail end of the migration, or between shifts for the birds. In Indiana, we've seen them by the thousands in one or two fields, all calling at once in other years. However, this time, the largest group I saw at one time numbered about 200. Otherwise, I noticed smaller family-sized groups of 12 or so spread out in many different fields. I'm happy with my trip though, because I was able to get much closer to them for photographs than ever before. My Prius with the silent electric motor let me glide along the back roads, taking photos of birds just over the fence.
Remembering Del's comment, I did notice that more birds were in the corn fields, and only rarely did I see them in soy bean fields, and none, of course, in cattle pastures. No grain to glean there. A bit of water in a ditch or small creek is a big attration too.
Other country birds sang for me this morning too. The Meadlowlarks were particularly vocal, teasing me from the distance. The birdsong CD we have describes their song as "Spring of the Earth" and I thought they were absolutely right today. If I heard and and tried to find one, the bird always flew away if I even walked in its direction. When I don't have my camera, they will perch on a fencepost 20 feet away!
Another bird I don't find around home too much is the Horned Lark. I saw this one fly across the road before me in a brown blur. When I found it, I was delighted to hear its high pitched chi-dit, seerp/tseep, and buzzy calls. You won't hear this guy if your car window is up or the radio is turned on.
Spring makes the Cranes dance with joy too! Just watch the video I took of their dancing.

1 comment:

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Ughhh, I just thought that I posted a bunch of comments and then realized I had not signed in... Your images are glorious and oh, if you go again this season, I so would invite myself to tag along. What fun and what a wonderful outing you must have had collecting these beauties you shared!