Majnu and Chandni looked at me with mild curiousity, then lost interest and stalked off. I felt hurt, but then I reminded myself that some of their colleagues had reacted to me a little differently, and I didn't feel so bad any more. There was either Howard or Cassassin, I didn't find out who was who, who kept pace with me, matching me stride for stride. Then, either Wazi or Slidell -- again I didn't find out who was who -- noticed me from a fair distance and startled me by positively bounding over. Seemed like a good way to start our relationship, so I said hi. Oddly, I got no response, apart from an intent stare. Though when I walked away, either Wazi or Slidell let out what sounded to me like an agonized bellow.
Elsewhere, I also tried to make the acquaintance of Samwise, Okeefe, Andrew and Bellotta. For my pains, I got the indifference of Majnu and Chandni, or more stares. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend that you try meeting them too. You can do so at the International Crane Foundation. (How long did it take you figure out, in that last para, that I was talking about cranes? The second sentence, I'm betting).
Majnu and Chandni are the ICF's resident Sarus cranes. At up to 6 feet, the Sarus is the world's tallest flying bird. Sarus cranes are resident in the Indian subcontinent (also Australia), which is why this pair have their particular names. Howard and Cassassin are white-naped cranes from northeastern Asia and Japan, though the name "Howard" doesn't really give that away, don't know about "Cassassin". Wazi and Slidell are, no disrespect to the rest, arguably the most spectacular of these birds, black crowned cranes from Nigeria.
It is delightful to spend hours watching these elegant birds (are there more elegant birds than cranes? I'd like to know about them) at the ICF's beautiful setting amid the rolling green farmland of central Wisconsin. Yes, I did observe this warning about reaching over the guard rail: "Cranes may peck through the fence, injure you or break their beak."
But even more fascinating is to learn what the ICF has done with cranes. For example, they are part of an effort with whooping cranes, the Whooping Cranes Eastern Partnership, that leaves me flabbergasted. For it's not just that they are trying to breed the birds and reintroduce them into the wild. It's also that they are trying to teach them how to migrate. (More information at Operation Migration).
Think of it, how would you teach birds how to migrate? And yet in April 2002, a flock of whooping cranes that WCEP people had led on a migratory journey from Wisconsin to Florida returned to the same grounds in Wisconsin -- thus re-establishing the first migratory population of whooping cranes in many decades.
How many whoops (sorry) of joy, human whoops of joy, must have accompanied that success, on the ground in Wisconsin?
For me, the idea of doing this is up there with the idea that I wrote about in To Audacity. May I always run into chutzpah like that.