A dream dashed

Eurasian Cranes migrating in Spain

Arkadiusz Broniarek posted this heartwarming photo on the page Cranes in Europe: 264 cranes in Tarifa. I think they’re Eurasian Cranes but I’m no expert and now I might never be. That’s the thought that occurred to me when I marveled: what is the point?

Who can say what kills a project? The pandemic is a factor. I won’t travel until 2022 at the earliest. Carbon footprint is another. Thinking like a future ancestor (see Roman Krznaric’s The Good Ancestor), we should all stop flying. An even more potent factor is the climate emergency: even with a close escape from Trump 2021-2024, just look at how little is being done. Who needs my small-time witnessing stunt? But the major reason for abandoning (at least for now) my 15 Cranes project, is simple. The reactor history book, my albatross, must see me obsessed, not distracted.

The Japanese Crane

This afternoon I walked down to the library and returned, unread, The Japanese Crane: Bird of Happiness, a book I’ve had throughout lockdown but never managed to process into notes. It looks so fabulous but now … bye bye. I snapped a poor (and mirror reversed) shot of the cover before sliding it into the returns chute.

Before closing off this project, I skimmed the Japanese Crane book. One last image, a crappy photo of a double spread, a snowfield of hazy Siberian Cranes in Japan. I had planned to go see them there. No more. Nada. Done.

Stunning posters of the 9 Cranes on the East Asian flyway

EAAFW poster of some East Asia Flyway cranes

EAAFP’s Story #5, “Do you know all the crane species in East Asian – Australasian Flyway?” sends the imagination soaring. Quirky, pithy notes on the 9 species (besides these 9, 4 reside in Africa, one is solely in USA, and one lives in Australia) are a pleasure to read. I bask, doing my best to picture how I might see each of the nine on location. The glorious Siberian Crane (you only see its black wingtips in flight) – I think Poyang Lake is where I’d go, and I’ve seen photos of that sumptuous wetland reserve in China. I’m unsure where the Red-crowned Crane, “tall and elegant” with a black neck and tail feathers, and I will intersect. Bhutan is my best place to view the shorter Black-necked Crane with a white eye ring that gives it a glaring visage. The Hooded Crane with its mini frontal grey-and-red hood, and its brown-grey bustle – who knows where? The blue-and-grey White-naped Crane is drawn with splashes of shades of grey – again, where? The tallest flying bird on Earth, the Sarus Crane, with its red head and neck, has a subspecies way up north in Australia, where I’ll travel when Covid-19 is beaten or finally peters out. The voluminous Eurasian Crane (“has no beautiful features or cultural background but has the best adaptive capacity”) is, for me, best viewed in Estonia, my now-deceased parents’ homeland. I have a dream to see the Demoiselle Crane, the tiny one of the fifteen, soaring over the Himalayas. And Nebraska is the spot to witness tens of thousands of grey-brown Sandhill Cranes. Lockdown … sigh.

Straddle the globe!

Flyways

A wondrous bonus of the pandemic lockdown has been a weekly educational webinar series from the International Crane Foundation. You can catch them afterwards via YouTube but I recommend you experience them live (even if, as with me, that means a 2 AM alarm), because they’re given by real-world conservationists and ornithologists and you rarely glean such wisdom. As a small example of the bounties in store, here’s a visual put up by a Chinese field researcher. No doubt thousands of bird experts appreciate just how the migratory birds straddle the world, spreading out to every corner. No doubt coffee table books glorify such barely believable images. But to this amateur, glimpsing such a vista, slapped up on a screen in order to clarify why such-and-such a conservation tactic is needed … wow, feasting upon this revelatory picture was life-changing. I’ve known for a while that, of course, Earth’s birds were here long before the human race. What I hadn’t quite appreciated is how comprehensive their global coverage. There is nowhere on our planet a bird has not flown to!

Lev saw some Cranes

Eurasian Crane by Lev Parikian

British orchestral conductor Lev Parikian penned one of 2018’s outstanding books. “Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? 200 birds, 12 months, 1 lapsed birdwatcher” entranced me. A few months ago, I wrote to him about my project of bearing witness to the fifteen Crane species. England wiped out the Eurasian Crane (or Common Crane) from its territory, but now has a tiny, reintroduced population, and I asked Lev if it was one of the bird species he saw, among his end tally of 200, during the quest covered by his book.

Sure enough, he did spot the Eurasian Crane, two birds, at the RSPB Slimbridge reserve, and has graciously let me show his photos above. His shots exhibit the stunning beauty of these elegant grey birds graced with black and red and white on their heads, showing a vivid wingtip black in flight.

I’m sure that you will feel as enriched as I am when viewing Lev’s action photos. If you’re a birder, buy his book for a treat of a read. If you’re not yet a birder, his book might well tip you over the edge!