19 July 2012

Where the Blue Crane Lives

[This is probably the first extensive article about a heron rookery thus far found for North America prior to ca. 1885. The details are exquisite in giving a particular place, a probable number, site features, some historic perspective and other miscellany which all provide a profound bit of bird history. It is also an expressively-written account.]

Mr. John L. Dunlap has returned from a hunting expedition in Spencer county, Kentucky. The only trophy he brought back with him was a gigantic blue crane, which measured five feet from tip to tip, and was exactly six feet in height. Mr. Dunlap tells a very curious story of a report of these cranes. About two miles from Taylorsville is an island in Sayre's creek whose area is perhaps ten acres.

The island is a favorite haunt of these peculiar birds, who annually resort there for the purpose of rearing their young. Notwithstanding the fact that the crane is a wading bird it builds its nest in the tallest trees it can find. The island is not cleared up, but is covered with gigantic sycamore towering eighty or ninety feet in height, and the loftiest of these are selected by them for their nests. One of the trees has twenty-eight nests upon its top-most branches, and another has twelve. The nests are rude, ugly structures, built in a slovenly manner of sticks, leaves and twigs, and are guarded jealously by the birds throughout the breeding season.

The cranes have been in the habit of resorting to this island for a term of years beyond the memory of the oldest inhabitant. Here they have been left undisturbed, until it has become a royal domain on which nothing else of the feathered tribe dare intrude. The silence of the centuries broods over the primeval forest, unbroken save by the flapping of their wings, or it may be the chance shot of the wandering sportsman. The stretch for miles around is frequented by flocks of the birds who here seem to lose, at least for a time, their solitary instincts, and become sociable and gregarious. They leave annually about the first of September, returning the first of April, and have been doing so for years and years. Their number upon the island is almost incredible, and old citizens of that country say it must be fully 1,000 perhaps much more.

May 16, 1883. Fort Wayne Daily Gazette 19(193): 4. Issued at Fort Wayne, Indiana.