Carl first came into our lives one day as we were working out in the front yard. It’s a wide open expanse of grass sloping down the street with a backdrop of what we managed to preserve of the natural lake ridge succeeding oak hammock.
We were doing some ground cover thinning up in the trees and happened to notice this Sandhill crane walking down our street. The Sandhills, since moving into our area tend to meander along roadways and even stop traffic on occasion when groups them do one of their slow crossings.
This solitary Sandhill walked up into our yard. At first we weren’t quite sure what He was up too. Was it curious about us in the way we kept rooting up and down pulling the growth we didn’t want and possibly looking like other cranes feeding? Then the thought occurred to us that maybe the crane was headed for the old dish from an old bird bath that we had sitting on the ground with a mix of seeds for the squirrels and birds? Sure enough, the bird sauntered up to the dish on the ground and started poking about. That day we named our visitor Carl.
Carl became a regular visitor. He was very timely, showing up for breakfast or brunch and then again in the late afternoon for dinner. I started going out to the feeder when Carl was there and he didn’t seem frightened of me but I kept my distance just the same. We didn’t want him to become too accustomed to us and unaware to possible danger. So I would stay a couple of feet away and under-throw handfuls of our bird feed close to Carl and then pour some in the dish. It became a regular routine for several weeks.
Then, one morning Carl arrived with a friend. The second Sandhill was slightly smaller and Carl seemed to watch or guard over it. We watched as Carl stood off at a distance and allowed the other Sandhill to feed. So we assumed Carl had found himself a girlfriend. We named Carl’s friend Carla.
We’ve had our mornings and late afternoons brightened for over four months by the visits of Carl and Carla. If the squirrels had emptied the ground feeder, Carl would trumpet to get our attention to correct the situation. He would stand guard as Carla dined and we would enjoy watching their dances and graceful movements together.
Unfortunately, as with many things of nature our story has a sad side. With every visit of Carl and Carla my wife and I would deem ourselves fortunate that either of these two lovely specimens of creation had not met the same fate as other cranes we’ve seen along the roadways of our community. Motorists somehow manage to hit these slow moving birds. We also hear stories of some birds being shot with arrows or killed by people.
We don’t know exactly what happened in the case of Carl and Carla. All we know is four days ago, like clockwork, Carla appeared in the morning by herself. She seemed hesitant and while visiting kept looking behind her, as if possibly expecting her mate. Carl never appeared. Carla has returned now by herself and each time looks forlorn, if one can associate such a look to a bird. She dines among our squirrels and other songbirds and then goes her way. It’s sad. I’m pained too think of what her future might be like as she goes about each day alone without Carl.
This morning, while out checking our mail I saw Carla swoop in and land in the neighbors’ yard. The sight of her brought happy-sad thoughts to me as she began to stride gracefully toward our yard. Then, I say it. One of the neighbor cats that constantly plague our birds was stalking across the yard next door towards Carla. Carla stepped back and the cat advanced. Carla retreated back across the neighbors’ yard away from ours with the cat in measured pursuit. The sight of this angered me. I wanted to call out or do something. Carla was heading away with the cat still following when I walked back into my house in disgust.
Once again, our daily lives are reminded of how our ignorance and apathy is slowly taking away the benefits our natural world has to offer us.