Posted by: highmountainmuse | March 17, 2009

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill cranes in flight (file photo from the internet, not my own)

Sandhill cranes in flight (file photo from the internet, not mine)


As we were looking back through our journals this morning to confirm the timeliness of the blue bird, we noted a post about Bob and Forrest seeing the Sandhill Cranes up at Beartown this time last year. The world was still white and wintery, the boys had made it up there on snowmobile, crossing the newly exposed river and creeks to reach the high country.  There at the wide, white, open flats just below treeline, was a group of cranes.  How I wished I was there to see those majestic birds standing in the open waters surrounded by the snow, embraced by the very tops of these mountains in all directions.


And then this afternoon, a funny thing happened. I was sitting out in the sun “gardening” (well, transplanting a houseplant from one pot to a larger one, the real gardens are still buried by a foot of snow), when I heard a strange and distant sound.  I tried to place it, but could not, and then it was gone.


No more than an hour later, when returning from grooming those shaggy, shedding horses, I heard it again.  Louder this time.  Clearer.  It is an unmistakable sound, unforgettable to all who have heard, as distinct and chilling as the screech of the red tail hawk, for whom we will begin listening next week. I looked up to where the sound was coming; squinting as I scanned the side of the mountain for what I knew had to be there.  It was.  I hollered inside the cabin and called for Forrest to have him to take witness.


I can not find words to describe the feeling I had as we stood there in the mud and snow around our cabin, so far away from anyone or anything else it seems some times, and to watch the Sandhill Cranes, just four of them, flying two and two together, in an updraft along Ute Mountain, circling higher and higher, their voices carrying down to us in perfect clarity, with the sun shimmering on their backs and huge silver wings, until ultimately, they cleared the 12,000 foot ridge, and faded off into the endless blue sky beyond.


The blessings of this magnificent world are overwhelming at times. Powerful, humbling… I am reminded that little else matters. I still need to be reminded. Too often, I still put importance on troubles, pressures, problems, disturbances, conflicts…. Why? What really matters?  The answers are different for each of us.  And yet, so much the same.



  1. We are filled with hope for you, Tres and her foal -and have faith that this new foaling stall, built with such love and care, is an inspiration for a healthy new beginning. We will keep you in our thoughts, as always.

    Spring seems to creep so much more slowly up onto your mountain than down here on the 732 ft. elevation of our prairie. Guess you are just farther away from spring up there! Take heart, the goldfinch have been gone for 2 weeks and eastern bluebirds and chickadees are nest building. Screech owls have set up house in one of Phil’s wood duck boxes (see Keep heart – it is coming!
    OH, and the blackberries are just beginning to leaf out! Cyndee

  2. Cyndee, I just looked at the web site for the Raptor Center. Is that Phil’s wood duck box on the front page with the Eastern Screech Owl peeking out? Are these boxes like bluebird boxes, where we are encouraged to build them and put them out to provide safe housing for our feathered friends?

  3. Yep, that’s Phil’s wood duck nest with the hole slightly enlarged by the woodpeckers!
    You can find an actual Screech Owl nest box plan: with information on hanging locations. They are very much like a LARGE bluebird house.
    It works for both eastern and western varieties.
    Good luck. We have raised many more owls than wood ducks in ours as well as several hives of native bees that think they are just perfect! We have never raided the hives as they seem so happy in there.

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