Yesterday we went to Chateauroux for the afternoon. The route takes us through the Brenne for most of the way so the chances for lucky wildlife sightings are relatively high. I once had to stop the car in the bit that goes through the Foret de Preuilly to allow a haughty young red deer stag to stalk across the road.
At this time of year we are waiting for the migrating cranes to come over and announce in their honking voices that spring is here. The reports are just starting to come in that they are on the move through France. Every year we see them flying over in strung out Vs but we've never seen them taking a rest and feeding break on the ground - until yesterday.
As we drove past a farm between Vendoeuvres and Claise we noticed some feeding in a field. We haven't noticed any over Preuilly yet, so these were our first cranes for the year. We did a quick U-turn and drove up the farm track alongside the field. The dozen birds weren't spooked, but did slowly move away from us and were about 50 - 100 m distant. They look so craneish, doing that thing where their tail sticks out behind like a bustle, and they just slowly stride across the grass in that dignified crane way.
We only had my camera with me, but even so, we are fairly happy with the pictures. Simon decided not to take his camera with us because we were just on a shopping trip. He is kicking himself for missing an opportunity to use his much more powerful zoom. If ever he decides he can't be bothered to take his camera on an outing I am to say 'Cranes!' from now on.
Curiously, this is not the first time we have stopped at this particular farm to photograph something. Last year they were one of a number of farms in the area to grow tobacco and we photographed the crop. It was only a small field, but once again they had provided the unexpected.
Once we got to Chateauroux we called in on Jean-Louis to see if he'd made any progress with Célestine's gearbox, but as we expected, it's been too cold to work in the garage. He said he'd seen a flock of about 60 cranes, just lifting off near Déol this morning, the first of the season for him too.
Cranes are one of those birds that everyone is happy to see, all over the world and in all cultures. Non-birdwatchers and birders alike will stop to watch them. I guess it's partly because they are large and elegant both on land and in the air, and because they herald the changing seasons. The long migration of many species is widely known and considered heroic, and their balletic mating rituals draw crowds in some countries.