A couple showed up at Rowe Sanctuary to view the cranes as the evening crowd arrived.  They were passing through and thought it might be a good idea.  Smart people.  The migration is a splendid sight.

Unfortunately, all the viewing blinds were booked in advance, as they are in late March, but the couple asked if they could wait to see if anybody didn’t show up.  Greg, who was checking visitors in, decided that while we didn’t have waiting lists, maybe this once he would allow them.  He made what I call a “command decision.”  I liked that, and I like Greg.

“My Irish luck may work,” said the woman to her husband.

I overheard the conversation.  I was going to North Blind, the smallest, requiring a drive through backroads, across the river, followed by a 600 yard walk through an open field.  North was taking 8 per tour this year, and I had 8 booked.  Ten minutes before departure, six had shown up, and I was waiting for the last car.  I wanted to get over to North early, because the cranes often come from more distant fields near the Platte and have a “secondary staging site” in the fields near the river right by North Blind.  Last year, we had ten thousand there one night, and when they took off over us, it was really fun.

From these secondary roosting sites, the cranes will go to the river around dark, although the time varies.  They are cranes, and they don’t tell me their plans.  I observe what happens, noting the various possibilities, and see how the evening will play out .

I happened to tell the Greg I was waiting for two more people, so if they didn’t show up, the other two might be able go.  He thought for a moment, and he said on the spot “this is right, this works, this will help, and the heck with the rules.”

Mind you, command decisions are not reasons to violate rules of safety, hurt individuals, destroy natural scenery, and things like that.  Sometimes, however, there is a sense of justice, rightness, and timing that makes these decisions sensible.  I was on a time schedule, and I could not afford to delay.  The secondary roost for the cranes could be in the field where I was going to be walking.  I have seen it before, and I disturbed a few hundred cranes then, which bothered me, because they were expending calories they might need further north, when they nested in Fairbanks the first week of May, in snow, no food, and living off the fat they were putting on.

Five minutes before I wanted to depart, I looked down the long dirt road that is called Elm Island, and I saw no cars coming.  If somebody were coming to my group, they would be at least five minutes getting here and getting checked in.  This was going to delay me.

“What do you think?” I asked Greg.  He had decision authority.  I was just asking.

“Do you want to take this couple?”  He replied.

“Yeah, let’s do it.”

I told the couple the good news, heard the woman nudge her husband and say something about “Irish luck,” and told them to pay inside, get right back out and where to meet me for the drive.  They were out in a minute, we left on time, and we drove over to North Blind, where there were no cranes in the fields.  That was lucky.  Had there been a few thousand, I would not have gone to the blind.

We walked into North, got settled, waited for the show.  A little while later, the birds staged behind us in a nearby field where we had just been.  We made it in time.  There had to have been a few thousand cranes there.

The Sun set in a glorious blaze of light, the cranes came off the field and landed on the river.  They were out in the middle, where they belonged, and all was right with the world.

Irish luck.


Cranes leaving the field behind us, North Blind

Cranes leaving the field behind us, North Blind


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