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.
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.
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
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.
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