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Despite This We Stay for October 11th, 2012

by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO — A few days ago we heard a noise I’ve never heard before. It was so faint, we couldn’t even tell if it was inside or outside. It was similar to the sound you hear when little kids ride a teeter-totter that’s been out in the rain, sleet and snow for ten years. Squeeek-squawk-squeeek-squawk. It sounded far, far away. We looked around the house for an injured Tasmanian devil or something, but we never did figure out what it was. It was giving me the creeps, and I could swear it was coming from the sky. My daughter asked me, “What is that annoying sound?” while eyeing me suspiciously, as if I personally was making the noise just to irritate her.
A few days later we were near Lathrop State Park, and we heard that creepy sound again. It was coming from the sky. Sure enough, there was this flock of birds flying around in circles, and it was the BIRDS that were making that squeeek-squawk noise. What in the world kind of bird makes a creepy noise like that?! They weren’t geese, which manage a pretty strict “V” formation when they fly. No, these things were all messed up. Some of them were flying in a “V,” but others were in a “C,” and some were just trying to catch up. Apparently they got separated from the bird with the map. I think they were dizzy, because they just kept circling over Lathrop. They never did splash down while we were watching. They looked like they weren’t sure they wanted to spend the night in Huerfano County.
I could not stand the suspense, so when I got home, I had to look up “squeeky-squawky birds that fly in circles over lakes.” However, to my surprise, nothing came up on the Internet. So I tried “annoying bird noises,” but came up with 33 million hits. So I narrowed it down to “bird migrations,” and sure enough, I learned that these were probably Sandhill Cranes. The cranes flee south from their summer spa vacation around Yellowstone when ice starts to form on their beaks. They must be a little smart, because they travel to southern New Mexico to spend the winter. It sounds like they have the snowbird thing all figured out. About 25,000 of them migrate through the San Luis Valley, so, just as I suspected, this bunch of about 150 got intoxicated on fermented berries and took a wrong turn at Canon City.
For all I know, they are still circling, desperately trying to figure out how to get out of here. Imagine that.