I heard them long before they came into view, far above me in the palest of blue skies. Sandhill cranes. Migrating north now, this flock circled in a holding pattern, getting their bearings, checking their instinctive compasses. I stood below, shading my eyes against the morning's brightness, watching in awe as they continued round and round, their music drifting down to me, allowing me to eavesdrop on their secret conversation. I felt honored to be invited to this front-row seat of such a glorious show.
The circular ballet held me in its spell. I stood transfixed, marveling as other flocks began to appear, one by one, almost as if from precise points on a time piece. Nearly invisible against the brightness, they came into view at 10 o'clock, 2 o'clock, and 4 o'clock. They all congregated above me, each one with a single purpose. The circle grew as they waited. They waited for that clue, that internal signal that would turn them north. Then, four perfect formations appeared above me, stretched out in "Vs" across the blue, exact and precise, their God-given needles pointed due NORTH. Their music faded into the morning sunlight and they were gone.
And to think, I could have missed the whole show. "I love it when they talk," a fellow bird lover said to me as we stood at the edge of a wildlife preserve, hoping for a glimpse of these magical birds. Had they not sent down their message, I would not have looked skyward and the moment would have been gone. Gifts offered by our universe have the power to change lives.
On Sandhill Cranes:
Watching Sandhill cranes creates a tug at the ancestor within us. In the days dinosaurs roamed the earth, ancestors of these majestic birds graced the landscape, their trilling calls music on the wind. Fossil records show they've lived in North American for more than nine million years. Wintering as far south as Mexico and breeding from Minnesota north to Alaska, Sandhill cranes begin their migration by February's end, coming together along flyways to feed and rest before continuing their journey. Sandhill cranes live up to 25 years and mate for life.