I have a confession. I lied. It was unintentional, but still, I lied.
I am a storyteller. I observe, gather information, and translate. Sometimes when I do not have all the facts, I make up “stuff” to fill in the blanks. Is that lying? Or, is it just an attempt to make sense out of an unknown thing. Perhaps it is just an exercise to entertain my busy brain. No matter, as time passes, the stories I tell myself become more intricate, and fact and fiction begin to blur. Soon, I am confident that my story is infallible and entirely correct. That is until one of the square building blocks turns into a circle, and the whole tale crumbles.
The Sandhill Cranes of the Lakehouse have taught me more than I could possibly share. Humility is a common theme, and so it is in this case. It has become apparent that I misreported a few of the facts. I contemplated never sharing the truth out of pride or embarrassment. But, honesty and integrity won.
It all began with Lydia. Lydia was one of my best friends. I am solid in what I know about her. She loved me. She was a fierce protector of her colts, and the lake, and a faithful mate to Roger, and then, Bud. When Lydia was injured in the spring of 2019, she lost her status as the matriarch of the lake, could no longer produce offspring, rear her brood of colts, or be a mate to Bud. She had lost everything that had defined her as a crane, except for me. Her gift to me was to allow me to see her frailty. Her vulnerability deepened our relationship. I lost her at the end of the season, but she lives on in my heart.
Lydia’s last surviving colt was not a typical crane. Crystal was born without fear. Baby cranes should be afraid of humans, but she would wonder about my feet so much at times that I feared I might step on her. She possessed a level of athleticism and grace that I had never seen in another crane, and I often thought of Crystal as a ballerina. She loved to ham it up for the camera and me. Crystal warmed my heart. Lydia and I were both so very proud of her.
When the cranes returned in 2019, I was shocked that Crystal was allowed to linger in the nesting area. In the past, I observed Bud and Lydia turn their backs toward the colts born the previous year. The message was clear; You are no longer welcome here. Bud and Lydia mated, as usual, eggs were laid, and everything seemed normal, except that Crystal was always around. When Lydia was injured and then disappeared, Crystal stepped in as mate to Bud and shared the responsibility of lying on eggs and even attempted to raise colts that were not hers. I was very proud.
This year I was delighted to welcome back Bud and Crystal. But, Bud seemed smaller, and I was concerned about his health. As time went on, I began to wonder if the bird was, indeed, Bud. Mostly, the bird seemed like Bud. But, one day, as I peered out the window, I noticed the cranes doing their special spring mating dance. Oh my. Oh, dear. Nope. No, indeed! My mind refused to process what it was seeing. My square building block became a circle, and the story I had told myself of Crystal fell apart. Crystal and Bud were not mates last summer, but companions. The new bird is not Bud, and the old bird is the same, but not Crystal.
Thus, I humbly introduce you to the Sandhill Cranes of the Lakehouse; Patriarch Billy Crystal and his mate Rosebud.
Song of The Post: I Heard it Through the Grapevine By Marvin Gay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hajBdDM2qdg
Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/
The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/
2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
This morning as I was waking, I heard the Blue Jays chattering outside my window. Their conversation was markedly different than it was just a few short days ago. I lingered under the covers for some time savoring the moment. After all, the noisy birds were announcing such good news. They were celebrating the end of a relentless winter, and proclaiming that spring would soon arrive.
I began to think about Bud and Lydia, the Sandhill Cranes that nest in my backyard. I wondered how far they had traveled on their Northward journey, and hoped that they had not experienced any difficulties. I made an attempt to telepathically tell them not to rush home. Though the snow has begun to thaw, it is still deep enough that there will be little food available.
I pondered what wakes an animal from its winter slumber. Or, exactly what tells a bird to leave its warm comfortable winter home in the South? To travel countless miles, often through brutal weather conditions, only to arrive in the less hospitable North, seems quite absurd. If it were me, I would be tempted to disregard the internal niggling that must occur. I would, without thought, hit the snooze button! I would sleep a little longer, or remain in the warmth of the Southern sun.
It occurred to me then! How often have I ignored my own internal knowing? How many times have I hit the snooze button when something inside has told me to get up, get moving, or start anew? How often did I stay in the comfort of the sunshine, when I knew I was being called to run through the cold rain? Too numerous to count, I am sure.
Spring is nearly here, and I can hardly wait. It is the season that inspires hope and encourages one to dream. It is time to plant seeds, to nurture, and watch them grow. It is the time that we are reminded to listen to our inner knowing, and like the migrating bird, move forward without reason or hesitation.
Thanks to Carmel Steffen for her editorial skills.
For more photos consider: http://www.lakehousephoto.com/
Additional Note: The cranes arrived safely on March 11.
© Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
The day the baby Sandhill Cranes are born is one of my most highly anticipated days of the year. On May 1st, I was awakened by Bud and Lydia trumpeting the arrival of this year’s brood. Neighboring cranes replied, either to share in their joy, or to announce the hatching of their own families. With heart racing, I jumped out of bed, and rushed to the backyard with camera in hand. Sure enough, Bud and Lydia stood upon the nest with two little ones under foot. I was beside myself with excitement and could barely hold the camera still. Not only was I overjoyed by the birth of the new cranes, but also, that they had for the first time ever placed the nest in a location I could easily see and photograph.
As with all babies I have hopes and dreams for their future. The first hope is that they live one day, then one week, and finally through the fall so that I might wish the whole family farewell as they fly south for the winter months. If they make it through the week, they receive names. Names are chosen based on behavior, birth date, or some other theme that is appropriate that year. Here is a chronology from the time the time I lived at the Lakehouse.
2006 Roger & Lydia (Named after some friend’s of my father)
2007 Roger, Lydia, and son David (David, after the real Roger and Lydia’s son)
2008 Roger, Lydia, & son Bud, and daughter Diane (Bud for a relative that loved nature and had passed away that day, and Diane after a relative born on that day)
2009 Sadly Roger did not return in the spring of 2009. Lydia chose to mate with Bud, her son from the previous year.
2009 Bud, Lydia, & daughter Dori, and son Nemo (Born during a high water year, and survived for only a few days)
2009 Bud, Lydia, & sons Chance, and Rerun (The second brood of the year, thus named for the second go around. Chance injured a wing late in the summer, and though I took him to the Wildlife Rescue Center in Grand Rapids. he did not survive)
2010 Bud, Lydia, & sons Trip and Mayday (Born on May 1st, the logical name for one would be Mayday, and the other. Well he tripped on everything)
2011 Bud, Lydia, & daughters Corky and Cedar (Named after the parent company of Michigan’s Adventures where Tammy Sue worked , Cedar Point and the Corkscrew Rollercoaster). Neither chick survived the summer.
2012 Bud, Lydia, & sons Sherwood and Forest (Named after Sherwood Forest from Robinhood)
2013 Bud, Lydia, & daughter Red, and son Rusty (After the color of their baby down)
2014 Bud, Lydia, & daughter Jut (Born on Mother’s day, she was given my mother’s childhood nickname)
Though many folks do not like Sandhill Cranes, I cannot help but be fascinated by them. It is true that they destroy crops, landscapes, and lawns with their long sharp beaks, as they search for bugs and seeds to eat. But I have no crops, and the little damage they do to my yard is not of consequence. How can one not love a bird that stands nearly four feet tall, eats at the feeder, brings precious babies each year, and allows one to stand just inches away? What a precious and unexpected gift I received when I moved to the Lakehouse!
Each year I am delighted by new and old observations. Just this year I learned that the babies swim across open water. Something I have known for some time is that each chick develops its own distinct personality though some themes remain the same year after year. The boys tend to lean back on their knees when resting. The girls sit down. There is always the flapper. This chick propels itself forward as it walks by constantly flapping its tiny wings. Without a doubt, the flapper is the first one to successfully fly as fall grows near. Then there is always one that is a bit lazy or sleepy. This chick will take every opportunity to lag behind, sit down, or take a nap. This chick’s first flight is never pretty.
Bud was a lazy/sleepy chick. Still on occasion he reverts to old behavior and forgets that he is a dad and has responsibilities to the babies. Bud’s first flight was the absolute worst I have ever observed. His sister Diane had a picture perfect flight. Roger and Lydia cheered her on as she glided from the nest to my lawn. Bud followed up with a wobbly take off gaining a bit of altitude, then abruptly took a nose dive into the muck. Though Roger and Lydia started off with the same enthusiastic cheer they had with Diane, they quickly fell silent during Bud’s ill timed decent. Soon all four cranes were in my garden. Diane, Roger, and Lydia, were obviously pleased, and ate happily at the feeder. Bud, however, wet and mud covered, hung his head in shame, and would not come near to eat.
Sandhill Cranes mate for life and can live 20 years. The first year of a crane’s life is the most difficult. On the day the chicks hatch the adults compel them to leave the nest to forage for food. The terrain they nest in is not easy to navigate, and I find it unimaginable to me, as to how the little ones manage. The nests are often surrounded by water that they must swim across. Then there are reeds and cattails, sharp, bent and broken from the previous years, new sprouts of the same plants, muck, sticks, and fallen trees. During the first year there are many predators the colts are ill prepared to defend themselves against including; hawks, eagles, fox, coyote, raccoon, snapping turtles and even cars.
The cranes have provided me with laughter, wonder, joy, and some sorrow. In return there is so very little I can do for them. I feed them, love them, cherish them, and adore them. I hope that I can provide a safe haven that they will come home to year after year. I am painfully aware that despite my best efforts, I cannot guarantee that Rusty and Red will make it one more day, week, month, or until we say goodbye at the end of summer. Each day I count, 1 baby, 2 babies, 1 adult, 2 adults, and am grateful and relieved that all are still here. I cannot guarantee that Bud and Lydia will safely return each spring. But I hope and I pray, and I wait each year for them to do so. These are after all wild creatures. They are not bound to me or to this place, but to their natural instincts. I can only hope that these instincts will lead them home for many countless years to come.
For more photos of the Sandhill Cranes go to: www.lakehousephoto.com
© Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.