Cranes and Ferns

January 13, 2008

Yesterday we went cranewatching and fernhunting, two activities that have special significance in southeastern Arizona.  Thousands of sandhill cranes spend part of the winter here, drawn to the warm weather, cornfields, and small artificial ponds.  A thousand years ago, they would have come for the natural cienegas (marshes) and grasslands that have now vanished.  Their wild, primitive cries and whistling feathers swirl over us now – voice of the High Plains wind, ice on the Platte River, and that older Ice that never reached the desert, but still colors the feathers of the wildest of birds.

We watched several barn owls fluttering in a willow thicket – pale soft wings flickering among tangled twigs – and found a sleeping long-eared owl nearly invisible beside a willow trunk.  A small flock of snow geese gathered on the pond and a ferruginous hawk – another Plains visitor – hunted in a field.  Then it was time to follow the gravel road over the hills and admire the view of distant mountain ranges while we hunted for two rare ferns among the limestone outcrops.  They are Mexican plants that enter the U.S. only in extreme southeastern Arizona and the Big Bend region of Texas.  I found them and a couple of other ferns, and added all four to my online fern guide. 

A couple of days ago I made these simple earrings as a demonstration for a friend, showing two different sizes of copper wire:  14 gauge spirals and 16 gauge loops for the African cast glass beads.

glass and copper earrings

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