The area before us is covered with plump bodies. Grey, white. Oddly, there's very little overlap. What's white is white, what's grey is grey, and the twain meet only in the occasional grey that picks its way through the whites. Stalking through on long legs.
Early morning, well below freezing and despite gloves and cap and thick socks and shoes and many layers of clothing, my fingers and toes are beginning to hurt, it's that cold. But before us, it's time for a chorus of chattering and muttering as the bodies wake, louder and louder. The stray grey takes off, or a few at a time, legs down till they get up speed, then straight behind as they skim the currents. The occasional one wheels and flies directly overhead, a sleek and swift vision as it passes.
The whites are still asleep, though again, an occasional one takes off. Much more flapping than their grey sleep partners, showing off black wingtips. From elsewhere where alarm clocks must be set earlier, skeins of their colleagues sail overhead, quickly into the middle distance where they look like so many threads flung carelessly into the air.
The exodus grows: now there are regular departures by seven or eight at a time. Then suddenly, with a great chorus of frantic chattering, all the remaining greys lift off and disappear. Suddenly, it's only white left before us.
Until they, too, lift off in a fluttering cloud of white and black and sound. They wheel about and then many just as suddenly return.
Sandhill cranes and snow geese at Bosque National Wildlife Refuge.
I had never seen, or heard, a flock lift off like that. That I did, this time, is something I owe to Vandana and her husband Krishnan. Don't miss her photographs.