Leading the cranes home*

[Winter is on its way: I woke this morning to a dusting of snow. So I will migrate back to the UK this weekend, and this is my last post from Maine for the season.]

After failing to find the sandhill cranes, Antigone canadensis, on foot,  generous friends took me out on the water for another try.

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The cranes fly across every evening to their preferred nighttime roosts, and on schedule they appeared. The light was fading, and they are skittish so we couldn’t get too close, so all these photos will give you is an impression of their magic:

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Across the treetops:

Sandhill cranes

To land in a reedy meadow, from where they alternately fed and watched us warily.

Sandhill cranes

They have only been breeding here for a few years, so they are still a novelty. At four feet tall they are stately birds who mainly breed further north in Canada, so we are lucky to have them. They will soon migrate south for the winter.

En route, we watched these yellow-rumped warblers walking on the lilypads catching tiny insects of some kind:

Yellow-rumped Warblers

And then the setting sun and the fall leaves turned the water into molten copper

Yellow-rumped Warblers

* My title is from a poem by the Chinese Tang dynasty poet Bai Juyi, 白居易, AD 830, translated by Arthur Waley.
The western wind has blown but a few days;
Yet the first leaf already flies from the bough.
On the drying paths I walk in my thin shoes;
In the first cold I have donned my quilted coat.
Through shallow ditches the floods are clearing away;
Through sparse bamboos trickles a slanting light.
In the early dusk, down an alley of green moss,
The garden-boy is leading the cranes home.

And a portrait of the poet:

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3 thoughts on “Leading the cranes home*”

  1. Love this post. I wonder if the Yellow-rumped Warblers were feeding on the little mites on the lily pads. We saw tons of the mites on such along the Old Course of the Saco at Brownfield Bog about a month ago and yellowjackets trying to gather some of the honeydew the mites secreted.

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  2. I remember the yellow-jackets in the bog. Any chance they were feeding on those? I didn’t see any, and it was getting pretty cold for them to be around, so I suspect your mite theory is right.

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