Biologists and Ecologists have warned the community of Sarasota, Florida, and the surrounding regions, of a sharp decline in the local crane population. They maintain the crane is on the brink of extinction! Since I have great concern for the local species and want to do my part to help protect these majestic creatures, I picked up my camera and went searching for the elusive cranes of Sarasota. To my surprise, I found the numbers were not decreasing but they were actually increasing!
I began the search where I figured the heart of the problem would lie: downtown Sarasota. With camera in hand and my Ford Explorer stocked with provisions, I proceeded to venture in to the deep, dark jungle of downtown Sarasota. This hunt, which I thought would take days, possibly weeks, sitting in a camouflaged blind, waiting patiently, just to catch a mere glimpse of the "endangered" creature, yielded immediate and gratifying results!
As I was preparing to unload my truck and set up camp in the parking lot of the downtown post office, I noticed some movement in the foliage and quickly grabbed my camera. Luckily, I snapped a picture of Cranus colossus peeking from its hiding place, behind the tall trees:
With incredible excitement, I grabbed my well thumbed copy of Dr. R. Miller's Taxonomic Compendium of Cranus cranus to see what I might use to coax the creature from its hiding place. After a quick reference, I discovered they feed on building materials, such as cement blocks, stones and girders. I hurriedly, but quietly, produced a few fire bricks, from my truck, and arranged them into the shape of a smiley face (as a friendly gesture) in the parking lot. I stood back and patiently waited.
Much to my surprise, what with my focus on the creature before me, I heard rustling from behind the Sarasota County office building. I turned my camera in the direction of the noises to catch a young, male Cranus peeking from behind the building:
Contrary to what is stated in the Compendium, the species Cranus is neither shy nor timid. I almost had an embarrassing accident in my pants, when I was startled by a shriek of hunger. I spun around. With shaking hands, I managed to capture the image of this monster, bearing down on me from behind, as it hungrily went for my bait.
I am not, by nature, a man who is easily spooked. But it seemed mother nature was getting a little too close for comfort. I realize the Cranus had no intention of using me to augment their repast, but I felt the close proximity of three Cranus definitely upped my chances of being inadvertantly crushed during the feeding frenzy. So I quickly leapt into my Explorer and vacated the post office parking lot.
I decided to head to the south and see if there were any Cranus lurking in the area of Burn's Court. To my great pleasure, I encountered a Cranus nest, with a couple of hatchlings emerging from within. I marveled at their beautiful plumage. One was bright yellow; the other was bright orange. I snapped an image, confident that the mother was enjoying the smiley faced treat I had left in the post office parking lot:
What a mistake! No sooner than I had pushed the button on my camera, I heard a roar of anger. I glanced in the direction of the roar and saw the mother, raising its head from a fresh kill. I regarded the manner in which the mother had savaged the building and decided it was best to take no chances. I put my truck into gear and left posthaste.
I turned north and slowly prowled the streets scanning for evidence of Cranus. I figured there had to be more Cranus inhabiting downtown Sarasota, since something had fathered the hatchlings and the mother's plumage was white. My slow northward search paid off. Grazing amongst the buildings, near the public library, were two male Cranus casually enjoying their natural environment. I noted their yellow color. Possibly one of them fathered the hatchlings:
I continued my coverage of the downtown area, vigilant for signs of Cranus. After no small time, I decided to save gas and park by Marina Jacks, to regroup and devise a new method of attracting Cranus. In my effort to attract and photograph Cranus, Sarasota business owners and residents, as well as the Sarasota Police Department, were becoming agitated with the multitude of brick smiley faces I had placed in parking lots and roadways. No matter how I tried to express the ecological importance the smiley faces held for the locality, they all steadfastly threatened my person, with encarceration (the police) and or beatings (the business owners and residents.) As my thoughts wandered, I observed people, in boats, trolling for fish in Sarasota bay. Suddenly, a notable scheme occurred to me.
The steel girder, I attached to the rear of my truck, produced quite a cacophony as it was dragged down the street. I figured if the fishermen can chum, so can I! I was hoping the smell of the fresh girder would attract Cranus. To my delight, as I pulled the beam through the Rosemary District, three new Cranus appeared. Two, obviously attracted to the scent of the girder, held their snouts high:
It was at this point, I heard the low, rumbling growl. I drove toward the area where I thought the growl had originated. What awaited me was an awesome and formidable sight. An old, bull Cranus was preparing to inseminate a fresh clutch of Cranus eggs. His priapic member, just beginning to enter the soil and sow his seed:
It was at this moment, I noticed the two juvenile Cranus, slaking their thirst with sea water. Between the fresh girder scent and the reproductive antics of the bull, these youngsters paused, from drinking, to warily scan the area for predators:
As is evinced, the cranes of Sarasota are no where near the point of extinction. I recommend anyone who enjoys nature and wildlife, take a stroll through downtown Sarasota, with a load of bricks. I hope you take delight when these fantastic creatures tentatively come out of hiding and try to eat from your hand. Maybe you will be lucky enough to domesticate your very own crane, like this innovative individual has apparently managed:
I hope this presentation has expanded your awareness of the Sarasota crane. If we give these creatures a modicum of respect, future generations will be able to fondly gaze upon the cranes as they frolic in their natural habitat. Remember, to enjoy the spectacle, just stroll downtown. It's an excellent form of exercise and, with a little luck and a watchful eye, you can enjoy the majestic beauty of Sarasota's cranes. Of course, some raw building material and, possibly, a copy of the Compendium could increase your chances of spotting one of Sarasota's finest, natural resources.