In the midst of the raucous croaking of Sandhill Cranes announcing their nuptials, I heard another call, a call I hadn't heard out at the Navarino Wildlife Area before, a call I could hear even over the crunching of my boots on the icy trail, over the crash of my boots through the mica-hard oak leaves. So I’d stop to listen for it, and I’d hear it occasionally ... it sounded like a dog barking or a bullfrog belching or the booming hoot of an owl.
The distance of the source of the sound made it so I indistinct, so hard to pin down. I passed the entire Pike's Peak Flowage constantly scanning its still snowy stretches of ice and marsh grasses. It wasn't until I was off-map again on the land bridge between the 80 Acre and Hanson Flowages that I saw something new (for me) out at Navarino.
Off-map again yesterday at Navarino Wildlife Area, I annoyed a couple Sandhill Cranes on the land bridge between the 80 Acre and Hanson Flowages. As they leapt into the air, their barking croaks startled me. Where the trail veered south to circumnavigate the Hanson Flowage, I went with it. Before the trail left the woods along the southern shore, I heard Sandhill Cranes again, fifty yards ahead of me. Their croaking was loud enough that it echoed off the tree-lined, snow-covered expanse of the flowage, a sound loud enough that it made me think dinosaur, to whom the Sandhill Cranes are related. If Sandhill Cranes tell stories, they'd have one about how their great, great, great, great, etc. Uncle So and So was chilling with T-Rexes 65 million years ago, when out of the blue a big whomping rock slammed into the planet, causing a nuclear winter that cancelled photosynthesis, caused the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, and rained down a world-wide layer of sediment containing iridium, rare on earth, but common in celestial bodies. We don't have any film of this, but the evidence looks pretty good.
The Sandhill Cranes' calls seemed angry to me: they stalked along the trail deliberately away from me, spinning back and forth, biting at the ground, lunging out their necks, opening their beaks wide to make those urgent, raucous calls, that sounded as though they were angry at the flowage or as if they were disparaging some enemy on its nether shore. Or maybe their cry carries their ancestors' lament of the end of the world as they knew it down to this very day.
With SNOWMAGGEDON CLAIRE rapidly approaching Monday, I thought I’d drive west to go out and meet her.
I arrived at the Navarino Wildlife Area at 3:25 p.m. There was a red Subaru ahead of me. Since I had forgotten my watch, as I was setting my 10 year old i-pod clock, I didn’t see where its occupant had gone.