Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

September 9, 2013

The Sandhill Crane

By Dick Platt
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Our little community, like many of the developments in Florida, is committed to preserving as much natural habitat as possible and still accommodate the tremendous human population growth. We have many small lakes and jungle-like marshy areas all around us and, as a result, the place teems with all manner of wildlife.

One of the strangest creatures we have here is the sandhill crane.

It is a huge, gangly migratory bird that looks like a cross between “Big Bird” and an emu. The sandhill has a long dark pointed bill, a bright red forehead, and white cheeks. It has a long, skinny neck attached to a a body that looks like a huge brown turkey. All this is supported by very long, spindly legs upon which it tippy-toes around.

As goofy as these great birds look on the ground, they are very aerodynamically shaped when they get airborne. With wingspans up to 6-7 feet, these cranes can ride thermals for many hours at a time with only occasional flapping of their wings. They keep their long bills and necks straight out in front and those long legs trail straight out in back.

Sandhill crane fossils have been dated back millions of years making them much older than almost all other species of birds. Although many species of sandhill cranes migrate yearly from the north down to the southwestern states and Mexico, Florida has a species that are here all year round.

The sandhills have a raucous, trumpeting call that can be heard for great distances. It can best be described as a cross between the air-horn on a semi-truck and the horn on that freight train that comes through Corsicana early each morning. The first time I heard a couple of them bleating out by our little lake, it startled me and scared the boogers out of Annie the Cat who ran in from our lanai.

Mated pairs tend to stand close together, calling out in a synchronized duet. For some reason, the female makes two calls for every single call by the male — a trait that is shared by the females of our species. The sandhill cranes are a protected species as you might guess. In fact, many of the boulevards around here have roadside signs warning of their presence.

They seem to have no fear and they have the complete run of the place — on the mediums, in the parking lots, and our neighborhood streets. The Little Woman (not her real name) and I were coming back home the other day and I rounded a corner and came upon a pair of cranes prancing down the middle of the street. I brought the car to a stop and then very carefully started to ease by them. I stopped alongside the biggest one which was only a foot from the side of the car. He bent down to my window and gave me a look with those beady eyes that said, “OK, Buddy, nothing to see here, just move it on down the road,” and I did!

Speaking of football (how about that segue?), I am tickled that the NFL season is finally here. However, there is some good news and bad news about being down here in Florida. The afternoon games don’t start as early (1 p.m. instead of noon) which I like better. It gives me time to get the New York Times and L.A. Times crosswords out of the way and perhaps fix a little breakfast for TLW and me before settling in.

The bad news comes with the Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night games that don’t start until 8:30 p.m. and run into the wee hours. I did find that it was much easier to stay up last Thursday when my Broncos were whipping up on the Ravens. We tried to stay up Sunday night for the Cowboy game but the second game on Monday night is ridiculous! It doesn’t even start until about 10:30 p.m. so I will never see the third and fourth quarters.

It seems a great irony to me that, now that I have retired and can stay up as late as I want and sleep in as late as I want, I do just the opposite. I tend to make funny noises when I doze off in my easy chair — in fact, TLW says I make the same noises as our coffee maker when it’s brewing. The other night, I snorted myself awake and asked TLW if I was sound asleep. She glared at me and said, “You wouldn’t believe all the sounds!”

After all these years of marriage, I have learned to pay — either attention or dearly. The worst thing I can do is doze off while TLW is trumpeting away like one of those female sandhill cranes I told you about.

No — come to think of it, even worse, it absolutely drives her crazy when I smile in my sleep. She just knows I am up to something I shouldn’t be.

See ya ...

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Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com