Cranes over Chattanooga

I was in Chattanooga yesterday and took an hour off to bike the Riverpark, a fabulous linear park that starts in downtown, then stretches for ten miles along the Tennessee River.

The highlight of the ride was a flock of sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) overhead. They were flying along the river, wheeling occasionally in a big disorganized circle, then reforming into a northbound V. I suspect that they were looking for somewhere good to feed and were disappointed by the lack of swamps in the urban center, so they chose to move on. They are likely part of the congregation of overwintering cranes at Hiwasee Refuge, a gathering that numbers in the tens of thousands is the largest wintering aggregation of sandhills outside of Florida. These Tennessee birds return to the upper mid-west to breed.

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Aldo Leopold wrote of these birds, “When we hear his call, we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution.” This is no accident — the trachea of these cranes coils within their sternum (chest bone) to make a resonating instrument very much like a trumpet. Both sexes call, often in vigorous duets.

For some remarkable footage of cranes in flight, see this almost dream-like series of shots of common cranes flying over Venice.

5 thoughts on “Cranes over Chattanooga

  1. Joe Brown

    Dear David

    I so look forward to reading your insightful and interesting posts. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge with others.

    Greetings from Tanzania

    Joe Brown

    Reply
  2. Sonia Kay MacKenzie

    Is this about the right time of year for the cranes to fly back North? I’ve heard on NPR that lots of animals are confused by our mild winter and early blooming plants. Do you know if the cranes are
    flying early or are right on time?
    Thanks for all your entries. Even when I’ve no time to “Reply,” I enjoy them so.
    Blessings,
    Kay MacKenzie

    Reply
    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Kay, Many of these cranes hang out in TN all winter these days. they used to just stop over here for a little while on their way to FL. I’m sure this year’s mild winter has made our part of the world even more attractive. Glad to hear that you enjoy the posts!

      Reply
  3. Pingback: A peek inside the cabinet | Ramble

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