Saturday, May 11, 2013

beauty in the sky


I saw an amazing sight this morning as I was driving the short distance from my house to the antique store.

My house is on the outskirts of one end of town and the antique store is on the opposite side of town. When I was about ¾ of the way to the store I looked up and to my left to see hundreds of birds swirling around in the warm thermals.

They were big birds and very high up. They looked dark for the most part but every now and then a group would turn and they would flash white.

I kept craning my neck out the window to see better and finally pulled over into a parking lot and watched for a while and snapped some pics at full zoom (3x) and I know from experience that those pictures come out very grainy.

So here are the pictures I took. They totally don't convey what I was seeing and only show a portion of all the birds.




When I got to the store, the swirling floating mass of birds seemed to be right above me and the courthouse and the square. I unlocked the store and then got my camera out and took this last picture. I still wasn't sure what they were. Not vultures or ahningas. Long necks held out, feet straight out behind, big wings. Some sort of geese maybe but I didn't think so.


I went in to turn on the lights and 'open' the shop and when I came back to the door, they were gone. Not a one in sight. When I consulted my tablet bird app I thought they must be cranes.

And it turns out I'm pretty sure that's what they were. Of the three cranes in my bird app it wasn't the common crane which is considered an accidental vagrant from Europe/Asia and doesn't come down this far. It definitely wasn't a whooping crane although they winter over not that far from here in a protected area in Matagorda Island State Park and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge as do sandhill cranes. So I'm thinking they were sandhill cranes but if they were, I'm surprised they are just now migrating.

Cranes are among the oldest living species of birds with fossils dating back 9 million years. Sandhill cranes have proved to be very adaptable and their populations are healthy although they are considered endangered in Ohio. They are large birds, standing 3' to 4' with a wingspan of 6' to 7'. They are omnivorous. They mate for life and live 20 – 40 years. They are migratory with their range extending from Alaska to Texas and they migrate in enormous groups. Cranes rely on thermals and tail winds to aid them in their migration, attaining speeds of 25 – 35 mph and covering an average of 200 – 300 miles a day or more. They have been seen flying over Mt. Everest at 28,000 feet.

I borrowed this beautiful image of sandhill cranes from: http://deepmiddle.blogspot.com/2012/03/sandhill-cranes-in-flight.html


If I should ever wonder why I moved away from the city, this is why. I would never have seen this and so many other wonderful things if I was still in the city.




19 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

that's so cool!!! when you described them, i figured they might be cranes, too! awesome sighting!!!

Kerry said...

Ellen, I've seen this too, here in Oregon, and it is breath-taking. Sandhill cranes in huge swirling flocks: I wish everybody had the chance to observe this. Magic.

Linda Wildenstein said...

I think they are Sandhill crane. They winter here in NM and when they "group" to fly....it is magnificent. What a wonderful gift was given to you in viewing this assemblage of Natures beauty. Happy Mother's Day, Oma Linda

John Kurman said...

It's a really big universe, I mean like a REALLY big universe, .and the cool part is when a really tiny part of the universe that thinks to itself notices cool shit, and snaps pics of it, and let's other little parts know about it. Yeah, that is so cool.

Steve Reed said...

Wow! At first I was thinking buzzards, because they always ride thermals like that, but you're right -- they're definitely more like cranes. I've never seen such a large group of cranes all together, though. (I see sandhills all the time when I visit Florida, but usually just in pairs.)

whirlingninja said...

Where we lived in HK we overlooked a country park - every night the sky would be black with kites coming into roost; I had a small avairy on my balcony and on a couple of occasions one of those sharped eyed individuals would swoop in for a closer peek; it is a very special sight isn't it?

Gail said...

What a wonderful way to begin your day

Joanne Noragon said...

We have cranes and herons near us; they love the marshes. I've only seen sandhill cranes when I visit Wisconsin. Big birds are fascinating, such power and grace.

The Bug said...

That's just fabulous! I would love to have seen them too...

And yes, that's what I love about where we live too - I see all kinds of things on my commute to work that I never even knew existed back when we lived in the apartment.

Out on the prairie said...

This is called kettling and a lovely sight to see.

Judy said...

So much can be seen when we actually look...glad you got this opportunity..

Ms. Moon said...

Hello, Ellen! I'm just back from my trip and catching up. Your gardens are beautiful and those birds- oh- my heart!
Aren't we lucky to live with such beauty?

Friko said...

Absolutely magnificent.

Cranes come to summer on the European mainland from Scandinavia but we have none in the UK.

A sight to remember.

Linda Sue said...

wow- I have never seen a sky full of cranes- generally two or three herons but never like THAT! Kind of freaky really! Glad you are not in the city, you are a barefoot girl- a snake watching sunshine girl! The city just would not do.

Hilary said...

How wonderful. What a treat to see and share. You make me want to find our place.. yesterday!

Jayne said...

Goodness, if I saw this I might worry I had stumbled into a Hitchcock film! Very, very cool, though. And I did get the sense of how awesome it must have been to evidence the flight of these birds. Amazing, indeed!

Connie said...

Good Morning Ellen, I just found your blog and we have so much in common, including our stock tank swimming holes. I love ours and enjoy soaking a way my cares on a hot summer day! When you don't have the rich man's budget you find ways to live the good life on a much smaller budget. We have a huge protected nesting spot for Sandhill cranes, not far from here. They are magnificent birds.
I am your newest follower, and I would love to invite you to visit and hopefully follow me back. I love making new friends.
Your newest blogging sister, Connie :)

Magaly Guerrero said...

What a blessing... to see Nature be herself in front of us.

I live close enough to the city that the most I see is, well... pigeons. But there is this yellow and black little fellow that has been visiting my window for the last few days. I'm going to get a bird feeder today. We should be polite to company, maybe more will come ;-)

Pearl said...

We have a HUGE flock of crows in Minneapolis that even have their own FB page. :-) Look it up -- it's crazy.

Pearl