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Sandhill Cranes Wait Out the Storm

Fishermen -- and cranes -- stranded in Alaska
© Ron Schott View Large

At the fall equinox, gillnetter Misha Noonan would often get stuck at the far east end of the Copper River Delta, waiting out the storms. Once the storms were so unrelenting, that not only were fishermen unable to return to Cordova, but Sandhill Cranes were unable to proceed with their southeast migration. He writes: "Every morning, a test flight of scouts would lift off and attempt - unsuccessfully - to get around a nearby cape. The tenth morning broke calm and clear. The scouts lifted off at first light. They called loudly and excitedly to the flock on the ground. They seemed to say, '1,000 feet, clear and calm. 2,000 feet, visibility unlimited! 3,000 feet, we're outta here!'" Share your story below.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Sandhill Cranes Wait Out the Storm

As told by Misha Noonan

This is BirdNote.
[Severe wind whips through the antennas of a gillnet boat]
“I used to gill-net salmon in Alaska,” writes BirdNote listener, Misha Noonan. At the fall equinox, we’d often get stuck at the far east end of the Copper River Delta, waiting out the storms.
[Continue wind +crashing waves]
Once the storms were so unrelenting, that not only were fishermen unable to return to Cordova, but Sandhill Cranes were unable to proceed with their southeast migration. 
[Calls of a flock of Sandhill Cranes]
 Every morning, a test flight of scouts would lift off and attempt to get around a nearby cape. The birds aloft chattered to the birds in the slough, the birds in the slough answering excitedly. But it wouldn't be long before the tone changed, in my opinion, from one of excitement to one of disappointment as the scouts had to turn back.
The tenth morning broke calm and clear. [Individual Sandhill Cranes begin calling] The scouts lifted off at first light. Everyone was awake – cranes, fishermen, ducks, geese, everyone. The scouts called loudly and excitedly to the flock on the ground. You could imagine what they might have been reporting: “1,000 feet, clear and calm. 2,000 feet, visibility unlimited! 3,000 feet, we're around Kayak Island and outta here!" Soon, 10,000 Sandhill Cranes filled the sky.
[Calls of a large congregation of Sandhill Cranes]
In 20 minutes… they were gone….Silence. The rally of the Sandhill Cranes was over... for another year.”
Share your story at birdnote.org.
###
Sounds of the birds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Calls of individual Sandhill Cranes 120249 by G.A. Keller; congregation of Sandhill Cranes 139430 by Matthew Jones; large concentration of Sandhill Cranes 2761 by A.A. Allen.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org     September 2016   Narrator: Mary McCann

ID#             SACR-02-2012-09-24    SACR-02

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