Sandhill Cranes   Miles Lowry
  Mar 14, 2003 08:54 PST 
Get ready, Midwestern ENTS!

The first flock of sandhills (200-500 individuals)just passed overhead of my
house west of Chicago. You hear them first and then must adjust your eyes to
see them hundreds of feet above normal flight paths. Their "bugling" helps
to establish a reference point towards which to focus.

They are one of the quintessential midwestern sensations of each spring and
fall season. Living in wet prairies and marshes, their recovery has been so
successful that the International Crane Foundation of Baraboo WI must reach
out to farmers regularly in order to convince them to sacrifice a few acres
of winter wheat seedlings to their early spring foraging. The five foot tall
birds switch to marsh and prairie critters as the season warms.

To me, this mass migration is what defines living on the savanna. Do others
of you have similar forest metaphors?

They should be up in your area soon, Lee.

Miles Lowry
RE: Sandhill Cranes    Robert Leverett
   Mar 14, 2003 10:47 PST 

   I remember a trip my wife and I took in the mid-1980s to the
Niorbrara Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska and another refuge near Valentine,
the name of which I can't remember. It may have been the Valentine
Wildlife Refuge. However, the abundance of Avian life we saw was simply

   The savanna and prairie ecosystems are incredibly interesting and
diverse places. A lot of people find them dull, but to me they are the
exact opposite. The combination of the big sky, rolling plains, and
unpredictable weather gives them a unique character and a feeling of
expansiveness that is unmatched. As much as I love forests, I can get to
feeling closed in at times, but the long vistas of the plains with the
sharply defined weather systems that you can see coming from miles away
make the heartland anything but dull.

   Please do keep us abreast of the changes of the seasons as you
witness them. Great stuff.

Re: Sandhill Cranes    lef
   Mar 16, 2003 12:03 PST 

I suppose the cranes will be here soon. They might as well now that winter
has ended. Once again winter has ended with stunning rapidity in southern
MN (it will be another month in northern MN). Last Monday Minneapolis was
a subzero icebox. The long-range forecast called for the switch to spring
on Friday and everyone was talking skeptically about it all week. But, the
forecast was right. It stayed cold all week and Thursday we had a couple
inches of snow, and then Friday and Saturday it was 70 degrees. Rivers of
melt water were everywhere as three months accumulation of snow
disappeared. Minneapolis underwent the two-day transition from an empty
Siberia to sidewalks and outdoor cafes packed with pedestrians wearing

It will only be a week or two now before tree measuring can begin. Now its
too muddy, because all that liquified snow is stuck on top of frozen
soil. Each step that someone takes that sinks into the mud in the forest
kills a wildflower, tree seedling, moss, or tree root, or starts erosion
that can lead to a gully.