Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ze cranes! Ze cranes!

I'm not exactly your nature-loving outdoorsy type. Sure, I like to see interesting animals and their habitats—on TV. And, to be honest, I generally find birds pretty boring—I've never understood bird watching. Maybe it's because I have such poor eyesight. However, I have experienced firsthand the sandhill crane migration through Nebraska and it is quite the spectacle. Is it because the birds are so big? Or just because there are so darn many of them (over 400,000!)? I don't know, but I highly recommend the experience.

Even if you haven't seen them in person you'll enjoy the amazing photographs by Michael Forsberg in On Ancient Wings: The Sandhill Cranes of North America. He is also featured in Crane Song, a documentary from NET Television (Nebraska's PBS station). Also, (boy does he get around) there is currently an exhibit featuring Forsberg's photos at Morrill Hall (the University of Nebraska State Museum).

About On Ancient Wings:
With 153 stunning color photographs, On Ancient Wings presents sandhill cranes in their wild but increasingly compromised habitats today. Over the course of five years, Michael Forsberg documented the tall gray birds in habitats ranging from the Alaskan tundra, to the arid High Plains, from Cuban nature preserves to suburban backyards. With an eye for beauty and an uncommon persistence, the author documents the cranes’ challenges to adapt and survive in a rapidly changing natural world. Forsberg argues that humankind, for its own sake, should secure the cranes’ place in the future. On Ancient Wings intertwines the lives of cranes, people, and their common places to tell an ancient story at a time when sandhill cranes and their wetland and grassland habitats face daunting prospects.

Also from UNP is Paul A. Johnsgard's Crane Music: A Natural History of American Cranes:
Paul Johnsgard follows these elegant birds through a year’s cycle, describing their seasonal migrations, natural habitats, breeding biology, call patterns—angelic to the bird-lover’s ear—and fascinating dancing.The largest and most spectacular migratory concentration of cranes happens each spring when the Platte River valley becomes the staging ground for an amazing gathering of four hundred thousand to five hundred thousand sandhills en route from the South to the Arctic tundra. Johnsgard describes this incredible event as well as memorable personal encounters with the cranes. His knowledge of them transcends natural history, covering their importance in religion and mythology.

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