Posted by: atowhee | March 22, 2017


It is raining…again.  The dog is recovering from knew surgery…still.  I’ll not get outside much today.  But there are still images of Sandhill Cranes from a recent day spent under partly sunny skies on Sauvie Island.  That’s both a wintering ground for some cranes and a northbound staging area for many more.CRANEFLY6That visit got me reading Michael Forsberg’s beautiful testament to the crane populations across North America, On Ancient Wings.  From that book, some words:

“Now comes a cloud of cranes with loud uproar—‘coor-r-r, coor-r-r’—breaking the crisp air into greater waves with their voices than with their broad brown wings, their necks out-stretched as if eager to see farther and go faster, their legs folded and projecting back like the handle of an umbrella.  Looking down as they go, they see the woods  below dappled with meadows and glistening with streams, and know the location of all the frog bogs for hundreds of miles.”  –John Muir, Sept. 1, 1877.  John of the Mountains (his journals)

“In nature you experience moments you never forget… Those moments leave such an indelible impression that you can close your eyes and experience them again and again… For me they come with sandhill cranes on the Platte River in spring… I will never forget the first time I saw sandhill cranes come to roost on the Platter River—strange, ancient figures with long legs and trumpeting voices filing the skies and falling so gracefully, like autumn leaves silhouetted against a river set afire by the sunset.”
–Michael Forsberg, On Ancient Wings

Forsberg’s image is used on the newly issued US postage stamp commemorating Nebraska statehood. Click here to see it, showing cranes over the Platte.

Muir was writing at a time when cranes still nested in the Sierra.  They were wiped out by market hunters when cranes sold for as much as $20 each in the food markets of California.  Cranes were not protected until the early 20th Century.  Even now they are hunted in several Great Plains states and parts of Canada–not Nebraska, thankfully.  I must agree with Forsberg.  The most amazing wildlife spectacle I’ve seen in the Lower 48 is the March madness that is the Platte River around Kearney, Nebraska. Tens of thousands of cranes flying, trumpeting through their looped trachea, dancing, and partaking of all other crane rituals now millions of years old.




  1. How long will the cranes be around?

    • Cranes migrating west of the Cascades will likely be gone in early April..some have to go all the way to Siberia to breed…there are breeding cranes in Oregon: southern Cascades between Ashland and Klamath Falls…Klamath Basin…Malheur NWR (which has largest breeding crane population in the state) and other remotre spots…they nest early so there are babies by May most years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: