Today I found myself singing an oldie way back from 1957. Pat Boone was the crooner and the song When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano. Boy! Does that bring back memories and fill the heart with nostalgia. All because in Salies it is time for the cranes to fly over on their migration back north and fly they did!
It was between late November and mid December when I saw them leave, one frosty afternoon. I remember hearing their distant cries and searching the far off forest for a sign of the birds that were making such a ruckus. I looked for a long time and saw nothing until I asked a man who was walking along the road if he heard them squawking.
“Oh yes,” he said, pointing skywards, “it’s the cranes: their leaving is a sign that cold weather is coming. We’re sure to get a frost soon.” I looked up and, sure enough, there they were: long strings of them sometimes forming a V, sometimes flying in parallel lines. They were migrating south, most of them having come from Germany where they had spent the summer and brought up their young.
Today I once more heard the distant cries and this time I knew to look up. There they were, flying now in the other direction: north, thousands of them squawking up a storm. It’s not that they come to or leave from Salies; I have only seen one crane on a field about twenty minutes out of town en route to Navarrenx. It was standing in the middle of a harvested corn field (obviously a lingerer from some early migratory group) and its height struck me as much as its location; I had always thought cranes were strictly water birds but it seems they are as comfortable on a field as in a lake.
This time, no one had to tell me that the cranes were announcing spring weather. In fact, it had already begun over a week ago. Temperatures have been rising, the occasional freeze at night seldom goes below -1º; tiny yellow blossoms are braving their way out from under green leaves and daring the frost-bite to wither their gaiety. On the lawn, the small white daisies that will decorate it like stars in a green evening sky for the rest of the summer are already appearing here and there. It’s been two days since I had to put gloves on in the morning or wrap a woolen scarf around my neck, and winter undershirts definitely have been washed for the last time this season.
But to watch the cranes as they make their way across the early morning or late afternoon sky is something which never stops marveling me. I don’t know what it is about migrating birds that excites me so: I never tire of seeing them and will stop anything I am doing to stand in awe as they paint their uneven designs against the blue. Another winter has come and gone; it is my second one in Salies. Soon summer and its busyness will be here, the delicious warm weather, the soft breeze wafting through open windows, the flowers, the tourists, the moules-frites, ice cream melting before you can get it in your mouth, sun lotion, hats and sleeveless shirts. I look forward to it, as much as I will eventually (around August) begin to look forward to the crisp wintery air and shorter days and the southward migration of the cranes. One might think that in their sweeping of the skies it is they who change the season, signaling to the lesser creatures below that it is time to seek cover indoors or step once more out into the world reborn.
Most photographs in this blog came from the following internet site: http://champagne-ardenne.lpo.fr/grues/e_synthese_migration_grue_09_10C.htm