My 15 Cranes project is astonishingly amateurish, as a glance at the irregular posts on the blog shows. I’m no naturalist, am only a mediocre birder, and don’t have the florid writing stylings that go with the territory of “nature writing.” What’s more, Covid-19 plunged a stake in the heart of my ambitions.
Yesterday P and I were scheduled to drive off on a seven-week road trip that incorporates, as a central plank, observing Australia’s two crane species, the Brolga and the Sarus Crane. I’ve seen the former in Victoria (where the population is almost wiped out) but Sarus will be brand new. I’d love to observe both species in breeding season, in their breeding habitats, possibly sighting eggs or fledglings, but that’s tough without a fully seasoned four-wheel drive and an iron constitution that can tolerate the fiery humidity of the wet season up in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Instead, we’ll focus on the Atherton Tablelands inland of Cairns, where large flocks travel from the Gulf to flock and rest up over the dry season of May to September. We may also be lucky to see some of them as we cross the eastern top stretch of Australia.
Two aspects of “seeing” the two crane species strike me as meaningful. Firstly, my own fear of this project means that I’m not sure why I’m going, have little idea of what I’ll do while “seeing” them, and shall face some form of failure every day in the field. Thus it has been since I began the 15 Cranes project and thus, I’m sure, it will ever be.
But more significantly, all the pandemic/lockdown desires to drop out of this project have, miraculously, vanished. With no warning, I’m suddenly energized and keen. Sure, I don’t know what I’m doing. But I know something fascinates me about these species (and the other thirteen global crane species) to the extent of irrational obsession. Right now, we’re coming out of a short lockdown period and quite when the four borders we’ll need to cross shall swing open is unclear, but within a few weeks, we should be off! I’m scrambling to assemble all the information I think I’ll need, to organize a tour or two, and to arrange a couple of interviews. We’re traveling lightly and flexibly, just tent and esky in the boot, and that itself takes some planning.
My heart is racing. Terror. Fierce joy.