I mentioned these beautiful birds yesterday as being my ultimate sign of spring. Mud is one; farmers say you can't have green grass until you have mud. Well, our horses, goats and birds love green grass, so we need mud. Although I really don't like it.
Robins are a common sign of spring. But I've also heard the farmers say that, once you see a robin, there's one more snowfall left. The jury is still out on that one for this year; I saw my first robin yesterday.
Cranes, however, are another story. There are several subspecies of cranes, three of which are endangered. The cranes we see here in Illinois, both migrating through and also nesting nearby, are not among those. And, yet, sandhill cranes are not seen everyday. We hear them in the spring and in the fall, migrating overhead. They sound like this when we hear them. They fly very high, using thermals, coasting northward on the air. I usually hear them long before I see them. When I do see them, they are often directly above me, so small as to be easily missed. More and more often, we're hearing them nearby, or seeing them flying over at the level of the trees. I know they nest nearby, because we hear them calling in the fields. It's amazing how far that call travels!
In spring, they seem to come after the first Canadian geese, but before the robins. As they migrate southward in the fall, they are usually among the last migratory birds we see. So I always say that I know it's really spring when we see them going north, and really fall when they head back south.
I don't remember seeing cranes while I was growing up only about 30 miles from here. I can't recall seeing them at all before about 15 years ago, when I had a pseudo-religious experience involving sandhill cranes. Yes, I know how that sounds. But follow me here.
Fall (or autumn, if you prefer)is my favorite season. I love the colors, the scents, the crisp, cool air. But one fall, I was having one of those really rotten days. I mean really rotten. Nothing seemed to be going right, and there was no relief in sight. I did what any sane person would do; I prayed. "Dear Lord," I prayed, "I know this has to happen. Just help me learn something from it, and show me that there's an end in sight. I just really need some happy in my day." Well, just then, about 20 cranes flew over. I heard their call, looked up, and saw them. They were circling. (I don't know how scientific this is, but I have noticed that, unlike Canadian geese, they don't fly in a v or exchange lead geese in an orderly fashion. They seem to decide it's time to change, and swirl around for bit, until one of them decides to be the boss crane.) There they were, above my house, circling and calling. Something in me said, "Hey, it's fall. Be happy."
Coincidence, I've been told, is when God works and chooses to remain anonymous.