Shri Jasnath Asan, Rajasthan, India
Photo © Shri Jasnath Asan, 2016
25 NOV 2016
We headed southwest of Jodhpur south toward the Guda Bishnoiyan, in search of demoiselle cranes. Stopping at a beautiful pond at dawn we found them, hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of cranes flying in the rising golden dawn. There a few things in this world more powerful or beautiful then watching, and listening, to wave after wave, after wave of cranes gracing the morning skies.
Though the demosielle is the smallest crane, they still are a large bird. The demoiselle is 85–100 cm long, 76 cm tall, and has a whopping 55–180 cm wingspan. They can live in a variety of environments, including desert areas and numerous types of grasslands, but are often within a few hundred meters of a stream or lake.
This species of crane is found in most of central Eurasia, from the Black Sea to Mongolia and North Eastern China with an additional small population in Turkey. These migratory cranes spend their winters in the more hospital climes of the south. Birds from western Eurasia will spend the winter in Africa while the birds from Asia, Mongolia and China will spend the winter here, in northwestern India.
I first met this species on a trip to Mongolia a few years ago. There on the high Mongolian steppe, in grassy marsh area, I saw a pair of cranes with two newly hatched, fragile, long-legged chicks following their parents through the marsh. These little ones had only a few months to feed, grow, and learn under the watchful eye of their parents. During the long days of the Mongolian spring and summer, they would gain their strength and prepare for one of the toughest migrations in the world.
In late August through September the cranes I saw in Mongolia would have gathered in flocks of up to 400 individuals and prepare for their migratory flight to their winter range. During their arduous flight south they had to cross the Himalayan mountains, often flying at altitudes of 4,900–7,900 meters (16,000–26,000 feet), to get to their wintering grounds in India. There they overwinter and prepare for their spring journey, in March and April, back to their northern nesting grounds.
It’s hard to imagine that those little tiny fuzzy new lives I saw in Mongolia, actually could be the same demoiselle cranes I saw today. Perhaps those chicks I saw are now parents and are leading their offspring in their first long migration to India and arrived in time for me to greet them at Guda Bishnoiyan.
Along the Way
Panchla Siddha, India
Sharon K. Schafer
I paint, photograph, and speak about wild places in an act of reciprocity that is as vital to me as heartbeat or breath.
My interest in the magic and mystery of the natural world lies at the intersection of art and science.
Made possible through
the generosity of
Artists for Conservation
Generous support and inspiration provided by
Shri Jasnath Asan