Monday, March 24, 2008

Sandhill Cranes

I heard the first sandhill cranes flying overhead this morning at dawn, back for the summer; their cry always reminds me of those wooden tubes with corrugations that grade-school kids rub with sticks to make a hollow rattling noise. This afternoon, I saw several of them in a swampy pasture near the East Gallatin River, feeding; later in the summer, we will see them in the harvested grain fields, but for now, they stick to the wet areas where they will build their nest. Although the guide books say sandhill cranes are grey, the ones I see around here are almost always a rusty brown; they may be mostly immature birds, which are supposed to have browner feathers. It is relatively easy to tell the cranes from the great blue herons that migrate through the valley because the crane carries its head straight out in front when it flies, while the heron kinks its neck back in an S; both trail their legs behind them.

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