This story is a fine example of how a seemingly good idea can turn bad. You have no doubt had a similar experience.

Memory can be so pleasant. Of the supremely happy and fulfilling years we spent in Nebraska, I remember a particular late-March dusk and the following pre-dawn when Ellen and I witnessed the landing and takeoff of huge flocks of Sandhill Cranes along the placid Platte River between Grand Island and Kearney. We were among people who ventured there from all over the world to see this marvel of nature.

If you think the screeching of gathering birds in Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Birds” was deafening, you can experience it for real with Sandhill Cranes without the fear of getting pecked to death. It’s a pleasing, exciting deafening coupled with dazzling sights of these magnificent, precision flying machines.

Migration is one of nature’s great mysteries. Monarch butterflies. Geese. Sandhill Cranes.

Considering birds alone, according to World Migratory Bird Day’s website, “Over 1850 bird

species, or an estimated 19% of the 9865 known bird species, are considered to be migratory.”

Sandhill Cranes are among the most majestic and memorable of them. Here’s a great video,

with audio, of Sandhill Cranes landng.

In the days of film-loaded 35mm cameras, I took my modest telephoto lens to get good close-up shots. That didn’t work. I got pictures galore, but the Sandhill Cranes came in and landed at such distances in front of us that, upon later viewing, the birds were tiny specks if they were visible at all. The next  day we followed a guide before dawn into a field on the banks of the Platte where the cranes were sleeping. They awoke gradually, each bird beginning with a wing stretch and a simultaneous squawk as I again began snapping pictures from 150 yards away. But those pictures turned out poorly as well.

As the flock continued to awaken, more daylight showed not only their wing stretches accompanied by increasing numbers of squawks that turned into large-scale screeches, but also their characteristic vertical jumps that I suppose constituted their calisthenics before becoming airborne. I thought this combination of wing stretches, squawks, and jumps upon awakening was something I could emulate the next morning back in Lincoln.


Here's a Sandhill Crane getting a kiss at the end of a wing stretch, squawk, and jump. That's where I got my idea. (Photo credit)
Here’s a Sandhill Crane getting a kiss at the
end of a wing stretch, squawk, and jump. That’s
where I got my idea. (Photo credit)

The following morning, upon awakening, I rose before Ellen and stretched out my arms, let out a Sandhill Crane squawk, and jumped vertically beside the bed. Ellen awoke less happy than I was. Funny how what seems like a good idea at the time can become a bad idea when implemented.

Looking back, I probably had a good idea how that bad idea would work out in practice. But it did get my day off to a flying start. That’s not all bad.

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