In honor of International Migratory Bird day, Bill Wallauer, JGI's own research videographer and wildlife cameraman shares his most recent experience witnessing the 2014 migration of the Sandhill Cranes.
Every year, 600,000 amazing Sandhill cranes migrate through a small section of the Platte River in Nebraska. I have the great fortune to co-lead JGI’s crane migration trip
every year where we see one of North America’s most stunning natural phenomenon. During the trip we met Jane who fell in love with this place years ago.
In a conversation with her while watching the cranes fly in, we marveled at the sheer number of them. For 30 minutes, a constant stream of moving bodies floated past our blind. Jane then made a poignant comment I will never forget:
"It is sad that because there are so very many of them, people forget that each one is a special individual. If aliens were looking down at us in a big city like New York, and saw the hundreds of thousands of people bustling about in constant movement, they could easily make the same mistake. There are so many and they seem so chaotic in their movement that they couldn’t possibly be very intelligent.”
So too with the cranes; as I spent day after day observing their behavior, I came to recognize that each one was as individual and as unique as we are. Some individuals are more playful than others, some are more aggressive and seem to cause a ruckus wherever they go; some endlessly preen their feathers, while another was in constant search of food. What a wonderful reminder that each one of us, human and non-human, is entirely unique.
In the endless sea of ever moving bodies, it is easy to lose the individual.
Marching to a different beat — as a huge mass of cranes moved from right to left, one had a another idea.
With the help of my long lens, I have the wonderful opportunity to study and document their individual behavior.
I would so love to know what they think, what goes on in their minds, and how our emotions are similar to theirs