As my friend Leah and I were walking into Foreman High School, on Chicago's northwest side, we heard the sounds of trumpets overhead. We saw about 150 sandhill cranes soaring higher than I've ever seen birds fly. Their height drew attention to their large size (4.5-5 feet tall and 10-14 pounds). Majestic.
My friend Jill reported that the cranes flew over Aurora, IL earlier in the week. As they fly to their stopover at Indiana's Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area through mid-December, you might hear trumpets high above you!
Photo used with permission; International Crane Foundation
Aldo Leopold's classic A Sand County Almanac which included the essay "Marshland Elegy" was published in 1948, decades ahead of its time. His sobering essay asks us if humanity's progress is progressive if it's short-sighted, wasteful, and results in the displacement of other species, like the cranes. In the 1930s, Aldo didn't hear many cranes soaring over Baraboo, WI despite the abundant wetlands. "For (the cranes), the song of the power shovel came near being an elegy. The high priests of progress knew nothing of cranes, and cared less. Some day, perhaps in the very process of our benefactions, perhaps in the fullness of geologic time, the last crane will trumpet his farewell and spiral skyward from the great marsh." Due to conservation and restoration efforts, the greater sandhill crane's numbers have made a remarkable recovery, but the biggest threats to the sandhill cranes are the loss and degradation of riverine and wetland ecosystems. Below is the ~13 minute trailer for the documentary Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time that is, in a word: indispensable.
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." ~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac