"Anytime you can see any species of wildlife in really large numbers anymore, it's pretty amazing," says Jim Bergens, manager of Jasper-Pulaski for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
"They teach their young to do what they do, and they had done it for a very long time," Bergens
says.By the time the IDNR built the first crane observation station at Jasper-Pulaski in 1975, he
says, there were about 2,500 cranes stopping here in the fall.
Over the three decades since, as environmental protection efforts have improved, the cranes have recovered abundantly.Today, between 30,000 and 40,000 cranes stop at Jasper-Pulaski each fall and spring.They don't all come at once or stay for the same length of time; normally, the greatest concentration of cranes on the site is about 20,000, Bergens
says, and that is around mid-November.
The birds roost in the marshes at night and fly out to feed during the day in private lands all around the area.On their way from one to the other, they stop in the grassy stubblefield known as Goose Pasture.Nobody quite knows why."It's just a behavior they developed themselves," Bergens
says."It's their gathering area."
Meantime, in the other gathering area, the one nearby for humans, the prevailing mood is one of rapture.Photographers train their lenses, others their binoculars, people laugh about the cold, but most of what they do is watch and listen.Watch as flocks of one hundred or more drop from the sky to join the crowd, listen as they warble and shriek.Which they do a lot.How they distinguish one call from another is one of those mysteries of the natural world; what it sounds like to the human ear is a gargantuan scrum of high-pitched noise."They're seldom quiet," Bergens