Sunday, October 26, 2008

Crex Meadows

Patrick and I drove to Crex Meadows yesterday. It was a bright, mostly cloudless, mild day, the autumn colors mostly over except for the oaks, which are currently deep red, orange, dull gold, many shades of brown. Some birches and cottonwoods still have bright yellow leaves.

There are 8,000 sandhill cranes at Crex Meadows right now, and three whooping cranes have been seen hanging out with them.

We did not see the whooping cranes, nor did we see 8,000 sandhills all in one place, as I had sort of expected. Instead, we saw three sandhills here, four there, a half dozen elsewhere, more flying in small groups in the distance.

There were also trumpeter swans -- a group of twenty, which is more trumpeter swans than I have seen in one place. It's a bird I like a lot. And we saw five or six bald eagles and a zillion coots, bouncing on the windy water and splashing at they dove and popped back up. There were a fair number of ducks, which I could not identify, given the light and their distance from the road. My best bet would be ring-necked ducks, which should be abundant in the preserve at the moment. They were definitely not mallards, and I don't think they were teal. What is the appeal of bird watching?

Per Science News, a new carnivorous dinosaur has been discovered in Argentina. Like birds, and unlike mammals or -- I assume -- reptiles, the fossil has multiple air sacks in its torso, which functioned like bellows, pushing air through a fixed lung. The dinosaur in question was 30 feet long and weighed as much as an Indian elephant. Why did it have an avian breathing system?

This is one question. The other is, how many other kinds of dinosaurs breathed like birds?

The more we find out about dinosaurs, the more like birds they are. This is hardly surprising, since birds are descended from dinosaurs.

It makes me like birds a lot, since I have always loved dinosaurs.