Friday, March 18, 2011

Sandhill Cranes and Spring Resolutions

When we hear [the crane's] call, we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.  
 --Aldo Leopold

Wednesday night and yesterday the sandhill cranes have been flying north to Wisconsin. Out for a walk in the late evening I heard their distinctive husky, ratchety calls, though I couldn't see them. Outside yesterday at lunch time I heard them again, those calls which sound nothing like geese, yet might be mistaken for geese if you didn't know, and this time I saw the raggedy wedge of birds beating steadily north. The light was too dull to flash off their pale cheeks or wings, as it sometimes does, but there was no mistaking their flight. The heart lifts.

Forget January 1st as the first day of the new year. Pope Gregory set that day in the 1750s when he instituted his calendar. This hearkens back to ancient Roman custom, since that was the day ancient Roman officials began their terms of office. However, the traditional day for celebrating the new year in Europe prior to Gregory was March 25th. Much more grounded in the northern hemisphere's reality, if you ask me. And there are so many other customs: for pagans, for example, the new year begins with the close of harvest in the fall, which also makes a certain nature-based sense.

The real new year comes on gradually. You can't mark it by saying one particular minute begins the new year or new season. The real new year begins now in northern Illinois, when the buds are swelling and there's a touch of green among the brown of last year's growth. When the sandhill cranes head north, and the chickadees begin their mating flights, it's time to cut down the old brown, rattling stalks to chop up for compost, and nearly time to start seeds indoors. Happy new year!

Here are my spring resolutions (besides putting in more native plants, which is not a resolution, but an established habit):
  • To rejuvenate my own small polyculture lawn
  • To figure out what to plant in the parkway now that I've smothered the grass
  • To get the raised beds I'm planning built and prepared before the seeds I'm starting are ready to put in
  • To persuade a friend who has spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) in his yard to dig some up and give them to me, since I can't find them in the nursery trade
  • To do a better job of entering my citizen science data at NPN (See my post about phenophases, or go straight to the National Phenology Network for more info)
  • To educate others in my neighborhood about the value of native pollinator-attracting plants, and persuade them to plant some this year
 What are your spring resolutions?

Note: Learn more about sandhill cranes at the International Crane Foundation Website. Here is a You Tube video of cranes leaving their winter home in Gainesville, Florida for the trek north to Wisconsin.

Update: Apparently there are now breeding pairs in Illinois. See Dennis Cudworth's article, "Sandhill Cranes Return to Illinois in Spring"

Related Posts:
Do Your Backyard Plants and Animals Display Phenophases?
Happy Spring!

16 comments:

Benjamin Vogt said...

Just got done teaching two classes on Native American culture, etc, and how time is circular, indeed, how it does not exist in the way we think it does. Yes, it's seasonal of course, but it's also momentary and slows one down so that past, present, and future are one moment. Terrible quick stereotyping here. But have you ever lived a day, a week without a watch, I asked my students. Yes, one replied, but I still knew what time it was. Argh.

I hope to visit the cranes next week during spring break, 90 minutes west. I've never seen them in person, just flying northwest overhead, like you, but even that is so much!

Benjamin Vogt said...

And you've checked out the live crane cam at Rowe Sanctuary in Karney, NE, right? At sunset and sunrise it's awesome just for the SOUND.

Heather@RestoringTheLandscape.com said...

I've seen the cranes in the fall at one of their stopover spots in WI and the noise of a flock of them is amazing. I thought I heard Sandhills fly overhead the other day but I think they were swans instead.
Heather

Elephant's Eye said...

Microcosm had a recent post about sandhill cranes. She's in the Q, new Mexico.

Jenna Gayle said...

We get them flying over the house! It's so fun to find them in the sky by hearing their call. I did a post last year about them when a couple were hanging out in our field. There's a video, too, where you can hear their call!
http://livingsoganofla.blogspot.com/2010/02/migrating-guests.html

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Hi Benjamin,
Thanks for the comment. Native American time is something I'd like to learn more about. Didn't know about the cam, will check it out. Just learned that there are breeding pairs at a forest preserve not too far from Chicago--hope to check that out too.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Hi Heather, now swans would be something to see. I'll never forget seeing pelicans near Moorehead. What a surprise!

Hi EE, I'll check that out.

Jenna, thanks for the link.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Have now followed all links. Thanks again.

garden girl said...

I heard and saw them flying over earlier this week. I was out working in the garden, and each time a flock flew over, I had to stop what I was doing, find them in the sky, and spend a moment in wonder. For the last three years I've been meaning to head to the Indiana Dunes to see them during their fall migration. It's definitely on my list of things to do.

DennisP said...

It's really neat to hear and see the cranes flying overhead on their way to where I live. I get to hear them and see them near everyday since they live in my backyard (in a natural area a half-mile away). Hah! You're lucky, but I'm luckier!!

Of course I feel like you when I watch Tundra Swans flying overhead on their way north. Oh well,.....

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

hi Garden Girl, I'm glad you saw them, too. Apparently there are some breeding pairs at the Dick Young Forest Preserve near Batavia.

Hi Dennis, Thanks for stopping by. Lucky you to have them nearby. Tundra swans, hmmm, I'll have to look them up.

Stacy said...

That sound is just so compelling - amazing in itself, but also a real marker of the seasons. The Aldo Leopold quote is spot on! Glad to have discovered your blog - thanks, EE!

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Hi Stacy, Thanks for stopping by. Likewise about your blog.

Thomas said...

I love the idea of the new year starting now. It just feels right, doesn't it?

Fargo said...

In the last few weeks, I've seen and heard several large flocks of sandhill cranes flying over our neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. The most impressive sight was a flock of around 50 cranes circling and diving for about 10-15 minutes before they resumed their journey to the northwest - magnificent!

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Hi Thomas,Yes, i think so.

Hi Fargo,
Thanks for stopping by. At first I thought North Dakota, but then realized, Rogers Park, Chicago. Lucky us, to be in that flight path!