Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

April 2012 Conservation Notes

Sandhill Cranes

I was shocked that sandhill cranes are now hunted in more than a dozen states and other states are considering allowing these magnificent birds to be killed (New York Times Feb. 23, 2012). I found the website of a hunting organization proudly displaying piles of dead sandhill cranes with comments that they are delicious with a flavor like pork chops or prime ribs. Early in the 20th century, sandhill cranes were on a path to extinction, but widespread and popular protection enabled them to recover.
Here are some old thoughts that may be familiar to some of our long-term members or readers.
In the spring of 1998, I was among SEVAS chapter members visiting lands around Gainesville, Florida on a birdwatching trip. Near the intersection of Williston Road and SW 23rd street we were entranced by a big flock of sandhill cranes on the U. of Florida cattle feedlot.
Many pairs of these large, graceful birds were performing their annual spring courtship dance. Seeing this dance for the first time was a wonderful, unforgettable experience for me.
Then on a foggy October, 1998 morning, we were on a birdwatching trip in western Volusia County, I forget just where. Driving slowly up a gentle rise, we could see dancing sandhill cranes emerging in the mist. I was moved to write these lines, published in the October, 1998 Skimmer:
Dull grasses shine with morning dew.
Patchy fog distorts our sight.
Pale silhouettes coming into view,
Ghostly shapes of startling height.
Some are leaping, bowing, swaying,
Lifting wings on high,
In fragments of the ancient ritual,
Ending with a poignant cry.
Summers gone and breeding's done;
Nestlings grown to fledglings flown.
But autumn's warmth rekindles fires,
Faint echoes from last spring's desires,
Dancing in the morning mist.
Sandhill cranes are as tall as a man and have a seven-foot wingspan. I cannot see how shooting these large targets that fly in a level straight line could be called sport.
Now when I lift my gaze to the sky as a great V of the cranes overhead fy; I see fading ghosts of passenger pigeons passing by.
I hope that National Audubon  will demand that killing sandhill cranes be halted.
Lee Bidgood, Jr.
Gainesville, FL