The Gifts of the Crane

Sandhill Cranes, California

Sandhill Cranes, California

I live near a region of northern California on a bird migration belt called the Pacific Flyway.  Every winter for over 20 years I have driven a few hours north in search of the sandhill crane.


When I am in their neighborhood, they are present, even though I cannot always see them.  They winter here to escape the cold extremes of the northern U.S. and Canada.  But it is often raining with low fog when they visit, and they fly high, invisible.


Sandhill Cranes, Lodi, Calif.

Sandhill Cranes, Lodi, Calif.

But if I stay still and listen carefully, I hear them.  Their sound is distinct, a mixture of gobbling and bugling.  It is not loud, nor low, and sometimes not even audible, unless I stay still and concentrate.  (Click to hear)


Regardless of inclement weather, at dusk they come in to roost in the flooded rice fields.  Even though it is almost dark, they are now visible.  Grus canadensis is nearly four feet tall and weighs 6-10 pounds; a big bird with a red forehead.  For one magical hour, pairs and groups gregariously descend from the sky, gathering, calling, settling in for the cold night.


When they are invisible, they can be heard; when it gets dark, they appear.


There are 15 species of cranes in the world.  Every crane I have ever observed is a strong and elegant creature.


Crane and Deer. Photo: Athena Alexander

Grey-crowned crane, Zambia, Africa

Cultures all over the world revere the crane.  Although there is a slight variation in all the interpretations, they are considered the symbol of luck, longevity, and fidelity.


Poised for their arrival, my rain slicker dripping, I stand beside the muddy California rice field at dusk, waiting and listening…and thinking about this.  What does luck mean?  To me it means you prioritize your dreams and desires, and go forth to meet them.


Wattled Cranes, Botswana, Africa

Wattled Cranes, Botswana, Africa

What does longevity mean?  When you stay connected to each moment of each day, the richness of this passion makes each day a lifetime.


And fidelity?  Stay true to yourself and the song that sings within your heart.


Whooping Cranes, Horicon Wildlife Refuge, Wisc.

Whooping Cranes, Horicon Wildlife Refuge, Wisc.

These are the gifts of the crane — and as we venture forward into the new year, I give this gift to you….


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander


53 thoughts on “The Gifts of the Crane

  1. I love your sound recording of the wonderful sound these cranes make, Jet. And your description of luck, longevity and fidelity is perfect and a joy to enter the new year with. Thank you and Happy New Year.

  2. Thank you Jet, and a remarkable gift, cranes are such a stately and calm bird. Thanks for including the sound, too. I just love our access, through technology, to bird sounds. Happy New Year to both you and Athena.

  3. A great post! We lived under the flight path of Siberian cranes in SW France, and it was always a thrill to hear and then see them pass overhead – line after line, in their hundreds – and your post brought back this memory. Wonderful. Happy New Year!

    • Oh wow, hearing Siberian cranes pass overhead — that is truly a great thrill and memory. Thanks for your wonderful comment today, pc, and have a truly wonderful new year~~

  4. Lovely post Jet. Earlier today we set up camp near Rockport TX and I could hear the whooping cranes in the distance welcoming me. They are definitely more focal than the sandhills. I made hubby wait for lunch so I could go have a quick visit with my feathered friends asap. Now if only this nasty weather would move on, I’d be one seriously happy camper. Wishing you a wonderful New Year 🙂

    • I know I would have darted out right away too, Ingrid. You and I are both so taken with cranes. How wonderful for you to be camping nearby and hearing the whooping cranes — have a WONDERFUL time in Rockport. And a delightful new year ahead. Thank you so much. 😀

    • Thanks so very much, HSE, for your great comment. I am happy you enjoyed the cranes, and I hope someday you have the chance to see the cranes in The Delta area. Fun to know you are in noCal. 😀

  5. All these birds are beautiful subjects for any photographer since they are gentle when they walk and fly almost in slow motion. Remarkable creatures! Happy New Year Jet! 🙂

    • The cranes are gentle and lovely creatures, aren’t they HJ? Athena has often had problems photographing the sandhill cranes because they arrive when it is dark. She was ecstatic last year when we were in the drought and the fog and rain skipped a year. In 2 wks we venture up, will see what the conditions are like… Many thanks for your continued interest and support, my friend. 😀

  6. Strong and elegant so aptly describe these majestic birds—what beautiful gifts they are to our planet. Happy New Year to you and yours, Jet! Wishing you a New Year abundant with all the good and beautiful things this life has to offer. :))

    • Dearest Jeannie, I am so glad you enjoyed the crane post, and I feel fortunate, too, to share this planet with cranes. I hope your new year is filled with joy and good fortune…I know it will be.

    • Hey Bill, thanks so very much. My best to you and N for a terrific continued winter holiday adventure, and a healthy and happy new year. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  7. What a precious gift or wish! I bet you can imagine the thrill of first hearing the Sandhill’s call live in the Klamath Refuge. I was doing a happy dance right along with the cranes! There’s just something about those regal birds…. wishing you more of the same gifts for this coming year!

    • I know that happy dance well, Gunta. 😀 I have only been to Klamath once, and oh what a beautiful place. I went one winter to see the bald eagles…also noteworthy for a happy dance. Lol. Thanks so much for your fun comment, and my very best wishes for a new year filled with happy dances.

  8. When I lived in Florida these amazing birds were frequent guests in our neighborhood and would stroll right thru our yard! They are beautiful and elegant. I miss them and the abundance of exotic wildlife Florida has to offer.

    • Thank you, sc, for your soothing poetry today. I have been quiet in the woods for the holidays, and not “sticking my head out” too often either, your sentiment was a balm. 🙂

  9. Thank you for the Gifts of the Crane, Jet! Wishing you a wonderful New Year!
    I grew up in the forest, and every living creature was a neighbor. Cranes were not common in the area, and I saw my first Eurasian crane ( Grus Grus) when I was in my 20s. I stopped breathing :). The feeling was somewhat religious. Thank you for this beautiful post.

  10. LOVELY post and very thought-provoking as we head into the new year. May you and Athena also be blessed with luck, fidelity and longevity. (Always enjoy seeing the photos from Horicon. You bring so much more than I ever appreciated there!)

    • I am happy you liked the crane post Nan, and thank you for your new year wishes. That whooping crane photo from Horicon was with a bird guide on the marsh. Whooping cranes are skittish and they were so far away that Athena photographed them through our birding scope. A great treat to find them. Thank you so much. 😀 And happy new year!

    • How happy I am that you enjoyed the crane post, Sylvia — thank you so much for your kind comments and your visit, I’m glad you took the time to listen to the call, it’s so unique. And happy new year to you, too~~ 🙂

  11. It’s very nice! I had similar with Eurasian oystercatchers when I lived in the Netherlands, I was often searching for them or just listen, because they’re quite noisy. Or Egyptian Geese, they’re so funny. These birds were always made me smile. 🙂

    • Oh how I enjoyed your post about the woman who saved the red-crowned crane, Carol. Thanks so much for the link and info, it was much appreciated and very in sync with the crane post. 😀

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 )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )


Connecting to %s