I stopped on the bike ride today, down by the river, to watch and listen to an enormous flight of sandhill cranes, headed north. I played a bit with the words to describe it (I often “write” while I’m on the bike), but I didn’t come up with anything quite as crisp as Laura Paskus’s description of their “sloppy V.” (picture courtesy Fish and Wildlife Service – click through to hear ’em)
Up close, they’re ungainly, clumsy things, and when they fly, it’s such a disjointed mess sometimes that you wonder how they pull it off. Yet there they are, somehow finding the cohesiveness to ride a thermal higher in a squawking, ramshackle spiral, then head off north in that “sloppy V.”
I’m not as pessimistic as Laura about their future. I view them as a success, a species that we pushed near the brink and then helped pull back. My discomfort with the result is the mistaken belief that a flock of cranes wintering at the Bosque del Apache south of Albuquerque is “nature.” It is not. They would not be there but for engineering and corn. There is very little “nature” left, only things more or less influenced by our presence. In the case of the cranes, our presence nearly pushed them out of the system completely. Then we wisely spent some of our surplus creating an accommodation.
I enjoyed watching them leave, and look forward to their return next fall.