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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Sandhill Cranes Prepare for Liftoff

Air Date: Week of
(Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)

The Bosque del Apache, a wildlife preserve in New Mexico, is the wintering grounds for thousands of Sandhill Cranes. Soon, the birds will take off to breed up north. Writer Mark Seth Lender watched them as they gathered in their resting place.


GELELRMAN: As winter turns to spring, sandhill cranes in New Mexico prepare for their annual migration from the Bosque del Apache wildlife preserve to the western shore of Hudson Bay, in Canada. Writer Mark Seth Lender traveled to the Bosque to observe this timely and timeless scene.


LENDER: Patient, elegant, sandhill cranes linger upon the flooded plain. Patient and austere. Here by night for the shallow safety this boundary of water provides, they stop to rest a while. For the sake of the food they found nearby, they linger, and pay homage, a temporary domicile, a temporary feast. Turning toward the East they form a long and upright line, and prepare their Salutation to the Sun.

They are in shadow, below the worn down mountain that looms, and like the landscape though weathered and tread upon by boundless heat, by bottomless cold, cranes persevere. Waiting. Then walking one by one they arrange by reference to the low steady wind. Barely ruffling, they slowly bend, like stalks of wheat heavy with seed. Watching. Stillness heavy in the air they breathe. Then comes the golden scimitar of sun. And catapult themselves into the glare - and they are gone.

Two remain. Only two. They lean as if their muscles are spring steel. The ice in bracelets crackling at their feet, stepping high they break clean away, loping slow they gain ground and speed, wing beats so deep they kiss the crystal clear beneath, until at last they rise. The long turn down the lake, a shadow play in tandem not a meter below their elegant forms. These two, among all others, truly mated pair.

GELLERMAN: Mark Seth Lender is author of “Salt Marsh Diary – A Year on the Connecticut Coast.” To see a slideshow of sandhill cranes in flight, migrate to our website LOE dot org.



Back Story: Listen to a short interview with Mark Seth Lender about his trip to The Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge to view Sandhill Cranes.

Mark Lender’s website

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge


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