short-tailed albatross skull, found at Doran Beach
One of the delights of daily beach-combing is how the tides always seem to churn up something new to suit the mood, especially after a storm surge. The other day I discovered the decomposing carcass of a large sea bird I did not recognize. I removed the skull and took it home, macerated it in water, and after scrubbing it clean with a toothbrush was able to identify it as an short-tailed albatross, a species I did not know migrated over Bodega Bay. I’ve been thinking a lot about migratory birds as I sculpt a large whooping crane for our Tsuru Project, and this latest discovery reminded me how vulnerable these creatures can be to the perils of migration.
I’m adding the skull to my Tsuru-related research archive, a visual database I’m building of forms and images relating to my crane sculpture. As the global population of whooping cranes hovers at around 250, it’s difficult to see them first hand, so my sculpture will be a hybridized interpretation of cranes and their metaphoric associations. One of my favorite references is a book called Cranes of the World I found recently at an antiquarian bookstore. Published by Winchester Press, the book was written by the dentist and amateur birdwatcher Lawrence Walkinshaw in 1973, when the population of whooping cranes was thought to be around 50. The book is chock full of Mr Walkinshaw’s photographs from his travels around the world on birding vacations with his family.
sandhill cranes, photo by Lawrence Walkinshaw (Cranes of the World, 1973)
whooping cranes, photo by Lawrence Walkinshaw (Cranes of the World, 1973)