Monday, February 06, 2006

Sandhill Cranes Away!

Today the china-blue skies over north central Florida were frequented by the rattling cacophony of skeins of sandhill cranes heading north-by-northwest, the first I've noticed this year. Perhaps like me, they've noticed that Spring is suddenly afoot: red maples setting fruit; the soft and wondrous perfume of blooming Carolina jessamine lacing the breeze; the common blue violets or the first zephyr lillies nodding amongst last year's fallen leaves. Whatever their cue, the cranes instictively know its time to wend their way north to nesting grounds and the promises of a new generation.

Today is the first day this season that I've noticed apprehensive flocks staging for the journey north. By 11:00 there were several groups of 10-50 cranes flying over Gainesville at several-minute intervals and one group I observed included at least 100 birds. They flew in broken V's, frequently disassembling to take advantage of invisible updrafts to gain altitude and establish their bearings. Then on cue, the spirals unfurled and the birds reformed into V's and continued on.

If you live in northern climes, its time to alert your eyes and ears for the crane migration.

Meanwhile, on the ground in north Florida, camellias are blooming everywhere, and azaleas are beginning to show their colors. Its nothing short of lovely, and a mark of the changing seasons, despite what the local weather reporter says. No wonder the cranes are nervous in anticipation of the new season upon us.

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