|Wings Over the Platte River... Birding Report on the Sandhill Cranes near Grand Island, Nebraska
© Pat Middleton, Neither text nor photos may be reproduced in any context without the permission of www.greatriver.com
Mike Forsberg Photo
What a difference a day makes!
Our March 1st visit to see for ourselves the annual return of the Sandhill Cranes to the Platte River between Grand Island and Kearney, Nebraska, was met with several days of blowing blizzard snows, whiteouts, and -25 chill factors.
The Sandhills we had traveled 9 hours to see were adaptable enough to turn south again until the temps edged up above 32 degrees on the last day of our visit. We, on the other hand, were determined to cruise the cornfields and camp out in the blinds for as long as time and temperatures allowed.
At the very last opportunity, we were rewarded with one of the all-time great natural displays in the world... standing alone in a blind at the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary, looking upriver into the glowing sunset above the Platt as thousands upon thousands of Sandhill cranes settled down out of the sky onto the frozen river before our eyes.
The cacophony of their bugling, cooing, and squawking both from on high and from the barely discernable sandbar where flight after flight circled to land in turn, was not yet deafening, (as it will be by the 16th of March) but it filled the balmy evening air and the night sky from every direction..
3/15 According to Julie at Crane Meadows, the sandhills are arriving in full force and the blind, bridge and bunkers tours are now filling up fast. Reservations are recommended. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
What else to see in the Area
The I-80 follows very closely the original western trails across the USA: The Overland Trail, the Mormon Trail, The California Trail. We enjoyed several museums located along the route.
The National Western Trails Museum just off the I-80 in Omaha provided an excellent overview of the western movement. The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island includes a large "living history" village, an excellent collection of Indian artifacts, and a traveling art exhibit which in March and April includes outstanding Sandhill Crane art and photography. In Kearny, NE, the Great Platte River Archway Monumentis located right over the I-80. The Fort Kearny State Historical Park just outside of modern-day Kearny offers interpretive displays and artifacts from the days of the western forts. We found it while cruising the section roads looking for cranes and snowgeese in the cornfields.
3/19 CRANE MEADOWS: "We are just about to the peak of our season. The cranes are beginning to dance and have a great time here. They seem to be really close to the road for viewing. Our tours are going very well and the weekends are full. ~ Julie"
Best Western Riverside
Great Platte River Archway Monument
New! An overview of Sandhill Cranes in the Bosque del Apache Refuge, New Mexico
US Fish & Wildlife/Rainwater Basin District
Guide to Camping Nebraska
Everything you every wanted to know about cranes! from
the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission