Crane Count

Alice and I have participated in the Annual Midwest Crane Count for many years. This morning we did it again. What do we do? We set the alarm for a time earlier than any retired person should have to get up, rise and get dressed for winter rather than early spring weather. We drive up the hill with clipboard, binoculars, and clock, arriving at our site at 6:30 am. We stand there quietly listening and watching for Sandhill Cranes. When we hear them, we note the time, type of call, and the direction we heard it. If we see them in the air, we note the number and direction they are flying. If we luck out and actually see one on the ground, we spend a lot of time looking at them in our binoculars. We do this until 8:30, when we get into the truck and drive to the local restaurant where we have a hot celebratory breakfast.

This project is part of a large group of Midwest volunteers who all come out at the same time and count the birds. It gives researchers a good snapshot of how the crane migration and nesting is going. That is what the International Crane Foundation gets out of it.

Alice and I have the opportunity to stand quietly in one place from before dawn until well after sunrise looking and listening for birds. It is always a magical experience for us. How often in our lives do we take the time to just listen and watch for birds? And since it is such a great experience, why do we only do it once a year?

In Ernest Thompson Seton’s book, “Rolf in the Woods,” one of the main characters, a Native American named Quonab, climbs out of his hut every morning before sunrise, carrying a small drum, and as the sun comes up, he faces the light and sings a small song thanking the sun for rising again. For the one day of the year we do the crane count, we get a sense of the magic and wonder that Quonab must have felt at the dawning of each day.

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