Sandhill Cranes- Heralds of the Spring

It’s time to get out my annual Sandhill Crane article. 😉

The long, cold, winter, (my family’s first in this state), had begun to tell on the nerves of all and sundry. We were tired of the snow, of the bitter winds, and we wanted to enjoy the outdoors again. Then, so gently it was almost imperceptible, there was a change in the atmosphere. The winds began to come from the south, the sun came back from its long sabbatical, and we began to hear the almost forgotten sounds of spring. Among these sounds was one that was unfamiliar to us, yet haunting. It was the sound of the Sandhill cranes going north.

At our first sighting of these near relatives of the great blue heron, we thought they were a large species of geese. It did not take long, however, to look them up on-line and identify their clarion call as the call of the Sandhill crane. We were astonished that they were so unlike their relatives. Their necks were are held straight, and never curve in the familiar “S” of the great blue heron. For all the length of their legs and body, (37 total length, and a wingspan of 80 inches), they are actually fairly small birds, and the males themselves, we found, never exceedetwelve pounds, nine pounds being the average weight of the female. We soon learned to recognize the rust-red skin that crowns the scalp of the cranes ( the colour brightening with fear, and receding with submission), and the grey plumage stained rust, from the iron oxide-soaked mud and vegetation that the cranes preen themselves with. The birds were always too far off for us to get a good look at their long and pointed bills, but at times these were visible in the binoculars. And,always, we could hear them calling out, as if they knew they were driving the winter away. The call, at least, was similar to the heron– what marvelous mechanism of creation had made the spine-tingling clarion call of these waterfowl possible? We found out. The trachea of all other birds is shaped simply in a straight and single line from the lungs to the throat, but not so in the cranes and herons. In the cranes, the trachea becomes literally a trumpet- the trachea is longer, with a loop that rests in the sternum, and in the herons, this loop that rests in the sternum is made double. Thus the sound that thrills our winter-weary souls is amplified.

We were surprised, as well, to find out how common these cranes were, at 650,000 the Sandhills are the most numerous of all cranes. But these numbers were not all our Sandhills, for there are six subspecies: Greater, Lesser, Canadian, Mississippi, Cuban, and Florida, and only the first three are migratory. It is the Lesser Sandhills whose migration route takes them over our Great Lakes Region. It was only in 1997 that scientists realized just how far the cranes migrate, their journey is over 14,000 miles round trip. They come to us from as far south as Mexico, and from us travel as far as north as Siberia for spring nesting, being the first birds to return for the spring.

When the Sandhill cranes come north, they often bring last year’s young with them, but upon arrival they are brutally driven away from the chosen nesting sites of their parents. Cranes are notoriously territorial, and never nest in groups. They do, however, mate for life, and both sexes participate in the incubation of the eggs and the rearing of the young. Only two eggs are laid, one twelve hours before the other. Incubation takes between 28 and 32 days, the egg that was laid first hatching first, the chick that follows is usually attacked and killed by his older sibling. The average time for a chick to reach fledgeling stage is 65 days, the total life-span of a Sandhill Crane is between 20 and 25 years.

The diet of the Sandhill crane is unpredictable, they are omnivores, and though capable of eating fish, they eat just as many small mammals, invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, and have even been known to dig out clams and shellfish with their pronged beaks. Unfortunately, they often make pests of themselves in a farmer’s crop during migration, they are numerous indeed, and can wreak havoc on more than the leftovers of his corn and wheat. Many good farmers await their arrival with less than enthusiasm.

Whatever else the Sandhill Cranes may be, however, as I sit here writing on a 60 degree day after months of below zero storms, darkened skies, and the misery of biting winds, I hear the call of the Sandhill Cranes, and I see them circling so many miles above me to gain the proper altitude before reformation, and can only think, “Spring”.

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Labor Saving

Gunnar Mrydal, author of a 1970 book called The Challenge of World Poverty, said that introducing labor saving devices into third world countries would decrease the demand for labor, and was, therefore, a Very Bad Thing, which would result in unemployment and financial disaster.

About this, Henry Hazlitt, author of Economics in One Easy Lesson, says:

“If it were indeed true that the introduction of labor-saving machinery is a cause of constantly mounting unemployment and misery, the logical conclusions to be drawn would be revolutionary, not only in the technical field but for our whole concept of civilization. Not only should we have to regard all further technical progress as a calamity; we should have to regard all past technical progress with equal horror. Every day each of us in his own activity is engaged in trying to reduce the effort it requires to accomplish a given result. Each of us is trying to save his own labor, to economize the means required to achieve his ends. Every employer, small as well as large, seeks constantly to gain his results more economically and efficiently- that is, by saving labor. Every intelligent workman tries to cut down the effort necessary to accomplish his assigned job. The most ambitious of us try tirelessly to increase the results we can achieve in a given number of hours. The technophobes, if they were logical and consistent, would have to dismiss all this progress and ingenuity as not only useless but vicious. Why should freight be carried from Chicago to New York by railroad when we could employ enormously more men, for example, to carry it all on their backs?

Theories as false as this are never held with logical consistency, but they do great harm because they are held at all.”

I believe the technophobes of yesteryear are boycotting Walmarts today. I’ll explain why I think so in subsequent postings.

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Of Boys and their Toys

One of our First Year Students has developed a new version of an old game.

The boy First Year student recently received some green plastic army men (found at the thrift shop for a terrific price). There are three sets, a small light green group (made in China), a small dark green squadron (made in Hong Kong), and a third set of larger soldiers. These are about four times larger than the others.

He’s decided to play checkers with them. He uses the regular old checkers board and plays checkers in the usual way, but with army men instead of checkers. The dark green soldiers are his, and his sister takes the light green. Anytime a soldier makes it across the board to be crowned, that small soldier is traded in for one of the larger, Godzilla sized soldiers.

I asked him what this game was called, and I got one of those “Are you for real?” looks.

He replied in carefully modulated tones- he doesn’t want me to know how silly he finds the question.

“War Checkers”

Of course.

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A narration on Henry the eighth

This is JennyanyDots posting on Pipsqueaks thing:)

Pipsqueak will be posting on Mary Tudor and Good Queen Bess so I will
post on Henry the eighth and the things he did.
The book we are reading for history is Winston Churchill’s THE NEW WORLD.

As a young man he was very handsome, he had auburn hair, he was tall, he had a pretty face and long neck. Henry liked to hunt, sing, and do archery, he spoke several languages and played tennis “uncomenly well”.

People who knew Henry very well knew he had terrible rages, but people who had just met him would never have believed he could. He was jovial, happy and very friendly, but in the later years as he matured he become more willful and wanted his way more often.

Henry took care of the papers, and all that a king has to take of, practically by himself. He rarely spoke his mind to any one, people said he was two persons in one,
he could be very patient and considerate, and then, he could turn into a cold, secretive, and unfriendly man. When he got an idea he could hardly be changed and the more people tried to make him do something else the more he stuck to it.
Henry once said that he would never be ruled by anyone else then himself.

When Henry was made king he was married to Catherine of Aragon. They were married for at least 22 years and had 5 babies but, sadly, they all died.

Henry was gradually getting worse, he was becoming unsatisfied with his wife, Catherine of Aragon, he wanted a divorce. Some people , like Sir Thomas More, would not agree to the divorce, so they were beheaded.
Henry divorced Catherine and married Anne Boleyn.

He loved Anne, but, she never had a son, he had her executed.
He married Jane Seymour. Henry loved her very much but she died when she had her first child. He married again, and executed again. He was married 6 times to different ladies.
His last wife was Catherine Parr. She was best wife for him in his later years.
She helped to comfort him when his leg bothered him and helped to bring the royal family back together.

Henry did some nasty things but he also did some good, he gave the Bible to the English people, he kept England away from religious wars for a long time, he helped to establish sea-power , and he kept order in a wild Europe, but, I have not forgiven him for executing Sir Thomas More.

Well, that is all I have to say about Henry the VIII, I hope it was interesting.

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A history narration

So, for history today we were supposed to write a narration of the last chapter and a half that we read. And so I am posting mine on the blog.

Mary Tudor, daughter of Catherine of Aragon became queen. She was catholic, and joined England with Rome once more. IN matters other than religion she was said to be merciful, and accepted those who came meekly to her.
Princess Elizabeth avoided communication with people under suspicion and ordered mass to be said in her house.
The Commons wanted Mary to marry Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devons, and an Englishman. Mary, however, decided to wed the emperor’s son, the future Philip II of Spain.
Thomas Wyatt formed a plot to stop her by violence, and Courteny gathered a conspiracy.
There was a rebellion, and though Mary was disappointed that she had not got the hearts of the people, she showed she was not afraid. She made a speech and there was division in the rebels. Some wanted to just to force terms on her, others wanted to dispose of her. Fighting broke out between them, and the Queen’s men came and killed them.
The Spaniards wanted Mary to kill Elizabeth, and Elizabeth was ready to ask for them to use a sword like her mother. However, she told Mary she was innocent, and had never had contact with anyone under suspicion. Mary believed her and did not have her killed.
Mary married Philip, and he dragged her into a war with France, and they lost Calais.
Philip went back to Spain, and Mary died November of 1558.
Elizabeth was made queen on November 17th. She was 25 years of age.
Elizabeth had been raised a Protestant, and she gathered Protestant men for her advisors. William Cecil was the greatest among them. England became a Protestant country.
Elizabeth became queen at a time when connections with France, Spain, and Scotland were not very good.

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