Monday, December 21, 2009

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn. ~Elizabeth Lawrence

Who says there is no change of seasons in Florida?  Though it might come a little late, and with less fanfare than those showoffs in New England, we do indeed have fall here in the Sunshine State.  Yes, it is December.  Yes, there is copious amounts of snow blanketing much of the country.  I say, better late than never!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Autumnal Arrival

I always know that Fall is in full swing here in North Florida, not by the changing of the leaves or the sudden crispness of the air, but by the arrival of the Sandhill Cranes.  The Florida Sandhill Cranes live here year-round, populating North Central Florida from Gainesville south to Tampa.  They live in residential areas with lakes and ponds, and in the many state parks and wildlife refuges in the region.

While I love the permanent crane residents, it is the migratory Greater Sandhill Cranes that arrive every late November that provide me with the most joy - and picture-taking opportunities.  Avoiding the frigid northern cold, these magnificent birds descend upon my temperate hometown by the thousands, making their presence known with a cacophonous thunder.  They are huge birds, standing tall at four feet, and seeing a field or prairie filled with several hundred of these guys is, just, WOW.

Every morning during this time of year, a massive flock of cranes flies over my house, roaring so closely that the windows sometimes rattle.  They travel from nearby Paynes Prairie to several marshes and fields in the area, including one about 1/2 mile from my house, for a buffet breakfast.  Around 10 or 11, they make their way back to Paynes Prairie, with a few loner birds hanging out in various pockets of town.  It is fun to watch these birds, a real observation of their social structure.  You see the dominant birds, the submissive birds.  You see fights over females, fights over territory, and even friendships among them.

Each year, many of the residents of my town look forward to the arrival of these incredible creatures.  People flock to the Prairie to observe and photograph them, to appreciate their mere presence.  If you ever get the chance to get an up-close look at one of the cranes, a bird who is more than 2/3 as tall as an adult man, it is quite humbling.