Fueled with anticipation, I almost did not feel the cold.
The lot was empty as we pulled in.
Beyond a row of pines, I could see the grassy field and the shadowy form of the tall, wooden deck overlooking it, its weathered platform and long rails waiting for the day’s crowds to arrive. At the peak of the cranes’ 3 to 4 week stopover along this route of their southern migration, numbers can reach between 15,ooo and 30,000 birds. Predictably, birdwatchers arrive by the busload.
Dimming our lights and silently pressing the car doors closed, we assembled ourselves in the dark—jackets, hats, and mittens—and made our way quietly down the paved trail to the observation tower. A light covering of frost had been left on each stair, and in the predawn light I clung to the safety of the rail, feeling my way along, climbing carefully to the top.
Fog hung in the low areas, curling around the bases of trees where the field met the woods in the distance. A small drainage ditch trimmed in tall grasses and filled with the white mist ran at an angle toward the back and broke the space into two sections, one, uncut and tangled brown; the other in front, short and green. Behind me, the starlit sky hinted of a pink dawn. A distant farmhouse sat quietly by, with windows softly glowing.
And from deep within the safe and grassy space, day began with the voice of a single sandhill crane.
(all photos click to enlarge)
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