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.