Alice Lindsay Price
The Noblest Flyers
In Natural History
and Cultural Lore
8 x 10 inches
over 100 illustrations & photographs
Then some day here come the cranes
planing in from cloud or mistsharp,
lonely spears, awkwardly graceful.
They reach for the land; they stalk
the ploughed fields, not quite letting us near;
not quite our own, not quite the worlds.
Watching Sandhill Cranes
In a March dusk, Cranes flock to roost amid a river in the Great Plains.
Dawn in New Mexico desert, and the cranes awake. Flying above a Canadian
lake on a summer day, or feeding among the reeds in a wintry Texas marsh,
cranes appear, then disappearsoaring spirits of wildness, birds
of mystery, survivors of a most ancient and perilous past. Fortunately,
the two North American species, Sandhill Crane and the Whooping Crane
may still be seen throughout our continent. They are models of the renewing
power of nature.
Cranes: The Noblest Flyers is a work crafted
from scientific and cultural perspectives inter-woven with the authors
own observations in field and marsh. The pages are illuminated with
photographs and illustrations by the author, plus historical images
from petroglyphs to medieval woodcuts to Audubon. The scope of this
natural and cultural history will pique the interest of the seasoned
naturalist as well as the novice birder seeing an echelon of cranes
fly overhead for the first time.
Alice Price has created lovely literature
about cranes. It is informative, entertaining and inspiring.
George Archibald, Director,
International Crane Foundation
Alice Lindsay Price is a nature writer, photographer,
poet, artist and scholar on James Joyce. Her most recent book is Swans
of the World: in Nature, History, Myth & Art (Council Oak Books,
1994). She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she is publisher of Riverrun
Press and a contributor to Nimrod Literary Review.
Flight of Majesties
by Barbara Riley
The beauty of cranes has been honored in so many recorded cultures that
it is tempting to declare these stately birds universal (or global,
at least) symbols of peace and strength. In the informal and widely
digressive narrative of Cranes: The Noblest Flyers, In Natural History
and Cultural Lore, Alice Lindsay Price follows both the dwindling
crane populations migrating through ancient flyways all over the globe
and the growing coordinated efforts to restore the seven of fifteen
species of cranes from endangered status. Counterpoint to historical
crane documentation and details of present conservation strategies are
lyric descriptions of Price's own travels to view cranes. With her,
we travel to the Bosque del Apache in New Mexicoand at water's
edge with the roar of tens of thousands of cranes lifting into the air,
I am reminded of the times I have stood there, and the unadulterated
awe that, paradoxically, a single standing crane can also inspire.
Alice Lindsay Price, a lifelong naturalist with over twenty years in
avian scholarship offers far more than science to fellow bird lovers.
About her book, Swans of the World, she considers "that
timeless zone of poetry and myth" that with this quote from Thoreau
(a journal entry of February 16,1860) ". . . A history of animal
nature must be animated" best holds how Price will illuminate her
facts. Noting that cranes are among the oldest living birds on the planet,
that nine million years ago cranes left fossil remains in Nebraskashe
evokes one of the oldest myths about craneshow their orderly V's
"dissolve . . . into a scattered alphabet." In the same section
of three pages, she works in the Greek classical derivation of Phoebe,
John James Audubon's first bird banding effort, Miocene crane history,
Japanese affinity for the crane including Sadako's story and ends with
an impending bird watch at the Lillian Annette Rowe Bird Sanctuary.
By page nineteen the pace is setas a river loops and eddies, Price
passes through a variety of places with many sights (especially the
sidebar quotes) merely glimpsed.
The cumulative effect is awareness of the breadth of inspiration cranes
have brought to disparate cultures rather than a sequential studyan
illustration of a 12th century AD Hohokan pottery design that faces
a drawing of a Roman coin struck to honor Caesar Antonius, or a Japanese
clan crest of three interlocked cranes opposite a complex petroglyph
from Colorado. As the familiar and modest, ". . . the cranberry
is the Crane's own, called so by the Dutch American colonial settlers
for the bird's old world delight of the new world's berry. Thus the
Dutch called it kraanberre. . ." mixes freely with the foreign
and vast, "Cranes ride thermals so efficiently, they have been
seen flying over Mt. Everest (28,000 feet)", readers can circle
and gaze at the wealth of references laid out before them. Whether the
story of 1000 Cranes, senbazuru, originating in medieval Japan and transmuted
to modern America, or the vagaries of foster parenting baby cranes and
the dilemma of precocial chicks, Price brings her unique enthusiasm
to sharing every aspect of crane activity.
Readers wishing to go on from this book will find Price's references
invaluable. My experience at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo,
Wisconsin would corroborate her description and the sense of miraculous
in being able to walk around a circular building with individual areas
containing healthy birds of every species of crane on the planet, all
in one place. On another ridge, a row of buildings where cranes are
bred can be seen from the public area, but is strictly off-limits to
visitors so crane flocks can be restored with minimal human contact.
Teaching young cranes to feed without allowing them to imprint on humans
requires patience and a willingness to dress up in "a long
white costume, a double face mask, and, on one hand . . . a puppet."
So begins a description of how Marianne Wellington, trained as a biologist,
now trains young Whooping Cranes to fly and to survive on their own.
Story for story, it is a rare pleasure to sit with Alice Price, to read
about the people she met, the history she researched, and to share her
curiosity about Cranes: easily the noblest flyers.