The slanting November sun had made short work of the afternoon and was already sliding toward the trees that mark the western boundary of the farm.
Jim and grandson Devin were stacking firewood while indoors I cleared a project from my desk. A shout from outside sent me flying to the back door where the men were pointing at the sky.
The rasping voices of sandhill cranes heralded their progress as they beat across the sky from the north in ever-shifting formations.
We gazed at them with the sense of primaeval wonder which such sights always inspire. The birds winged through cloud wisps and jet trails over Big Creek Valley, veering southwestward.
The last shush of beating wings passed overhead, the strident cries of the cranes fading as the sun withdrew behind the woods, leaving a blanket of red-gold and smokey lavender to briefly mark its descent.
The dooryard settled into the sudden stillness of a November evening, the cooling air rich with the scent of rising woodsmoke and the sharp tang of freshly split maple.
Added later: I typed 'sandhill crane migration' into the Google search engine. It appears that southern Arizona is the destination for thousands of cranes who over-winter there. The birds are fairly common summer residents of the rural mid-west and the interior west--we've seen them there. The cranes begin traveling north early in the spring and the North Platte River Basin is a stop-over where they rest and feed for several weeks before completing their northern journey.
When we moved from Wyoming to Kentucky, it was at the time of the spring migration and our route took us for miles along the North Platte. The sandhill cranes were present in the thousands, along with Canadian geese. I've added the photo above, taken from the truck window which caught mostly geese, but will give you an idea of the terrain. The ground teemed with birds with more of them always swirling above.