Sandhill Cranes


We were walking to Bone Canyon Tuesday when I heard an unfamiliar noise: purr-rr-rr-rr-t! I stopped instantly. I had heard the same odd noise the night before (sort of a high-pitched purring) as I crept about in the dark to lock up the chickens. I thought it was an uncommon bird in the sagebrush (a quail?), so when the kids and I heard it the next day I looked all over the ground.

"Dad, they're up there!"

Duh - they were in they sky. We watched as a few hundred large birds in two massive flocks swirled in patterns over the mountains. It was absolutely breathtaking. They circled and soared, like hawks or vultures, their wings changing from dark gray to a shimmering white as they caught the sun in each revolution. Eventually, they found their altitude and veered south in the familiar v-pattern. We memorized the distinctive call these birds made, which later allowed us to identify the birds as sandhill cranes.

People sometimes ask me what curriculum I'm following. Sure, I plan some of our activities, but I can't emphasize enough how important these moments are to me and the kids. Part of our curriculum is just being alive and taking the time to notice what's happening around us. I plan on it.

We saw two more flocks that day, maybe as many as a thousand birds (including the ones I had heard flying the night before). I watched all the next day, but nothing. It had been rainy and stormy all week, and that one day had been a reprieve from the commanding clouds. Is it possible an entire population of birds had taken advantage of that one break in the weather? How could they not?