Sunday, February 15, 2009

Neighboring Migrants

What, precisely, are the beef being taught here?

When I came to Gainesville, I moved sight-unseen into my apartment, which I chose primarily for its cheapness, and because the leasing office assured me that it was quiet—no giant undergraduate keg parties on weekends. I must have been lucky the day I chose the place: it's tiny and a bit of a dump, but it's convenient to campus, and within walking distance of both a well-stocked Indian grocery AND a Chinese/Korean grocery, so I never need to go without fresh curry leaves or black bean sauce.

Even better, it's near a minor birding hotspot: a series of cow pastures owned by the University of Florida's Animal Science department, mysteriously named the "Beef Teaching Unit." This leads me to think that they're either trying to teach the cattle something (what??), or even weirder, having them teach UF students. (I guess this could be one way for UF to deal with its budget issues...)

Do I look like I give extra credit?

The fields are always a reliable place to find Cattle Egrets (duh), but their main claim to fame is Sandhill Cranes in the winter. In the mornings since mid-December, I've been seeing the cranes flying overhead or hearing them in the distance whenever I step outside. When I'm driving around running errands, or doing my afternoon run, I see them feeding alongside the cattle:

The Sandhill Cranes at Paynes Prairie have, for the most part, already set off on their northward migration to their breeding territories. It won't be long before these guys do the same. But for now, I'm enjoying the sight and sound of these big, wild, noisy birds. I can only guess what the beef have been teaching them.

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