©Bert Gildart: When Janie comes running into the house yelling for me to grab my camera bag, I know she’s seen something unusual, so I don’t question her until we’re in the car. But I should have known what was causing all the excitement.
Each year at this time, a pair of sandhill cranes begins making its ratcheting call. Once again, they’ve returned to a lonely section along what I call “The Last Country Road (our road),” located in Montana’s Flathead Valley.
“It’s in a small field,” she said, “and maybe the car won’t frighten it away.” That’s a technique we’ve used before, for often birds will ignore a vehicle. But just don’t open the door.
That was just a few days ago, and our technique worked. At least for a few minutes. Rolling down the window the crane stood still, and examined us. Then something startled it, perhaps a glint of light on my lens, or simply the idea that we were something foreign and that we’d over stayed our welcome. Nevertheless, I got one shot with a 600mm lens, and here it is.
WORLD’S OLDEST BIRD
I like cranes and have photographed them in different parts of the country, perhaps most notably at Bosque del Apache. As a group, they are the world’s oldest birds, older than robins, eagles, pelicans or storks. In fact, cranes are over 50-million years old and in 1979, scientists found a fossilized wing along Nebraska’s Platte River that was over nine-million years old. It belonged to a sand hill crane, so sand hills have been in North America at least that long.
We don’t get many cranes here in the Flathead, and I hope, of course, that nothing disturbs them and changes their mind about nesting along one of the creeks that flows through one of our neighbor’s farms. Though we seldom see these magnificent birds, we often hear them, so it was easy for me to understand Janie’s enthusiasm and share it with her…
May cranes last another 50 million years.