Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sandhills Cranes Up Close and Personal

The Sandhills Crane Migration is one of the most exciting and remarkable wonders of nature and this year we saw them up close and personal. Sandra and Connor visited us from Denver with the specific intent to experience the cranes annual migration.
Sandra and Connor at the visitors center
We spent some time one afternoon chasing the cranes in the fields trying to find the biggest congregations. The weather had been fierce for two days before so we were blessed with a day without wind and lots of sunshine even though it was still cold.
If you click on the picture to enlarge you'll get more of an idea how many crane are feeding in this field but it is difficult to capture on film. When in their presence, hearing their noisy call, it is something special.
They fill the fields and the sky. In the fields we watched their various dances which is entertaining. This migration is like a big family reunion where all the various flocks get together from Texas, New Mexico etc, heading back North through the Central Flyway where they stay three weeks to refresh before their final journey home. During these several weeks each year, around 500,000 Sandhills Cranes will be passing through Nebraska.

At 6PM, we returned to the Audubon nature preserve called Rowe Sanctuary to sit in a blind on the Platte River while the Sandhills Cranes came in to roost at night. You've not experienced nature until you witness over 100,000 birds landing on the river from the surrounding fields for 2 1/2 hours! Yes, it took that long for all the birds to come in for the night. The sounds were incredible and the constant overhead flight of the birds was almost overwhelming. I recommend this natural event to any of you readers who are into natural phenomena and/or birds. These birds are magnificent!
It's 6PM and the birds begin to come in for the night

Me with Connor and Sandra bundled up with many
layers of clothes to stay warm in an unheated hut for
two and a half hours...on the river. What are we doing?
We viewed through the windows where we could use
our cameras or binoculars to watch the scene unfold.
Above is Sandra on the right and Connor is two over
to the left of her.  We were warned to dress warmly
because it got very chilly in the blind. They were right!

The view from the blind. Pretty sunset.
If you enlarge this picture you will see multiple V formations
in the sky heading to the river.
As it gets later, more birds fill the sky
As the birds land on the river, they form a somewhat single line from shore to shore and fill the river row after row seemingly solid for the night.
It's getting darker and they are still coming in to land on the river
This is a powerful video by the University of Nebraska and is just as we experienced it. Take a look and listen. Think about coming one spring to see this. I consider it one of the natural highlights of my life. It gave me the same feeling of wonderment and awe that I get when I look at the black night sky full of stars. Since I've retired I look for more of these natural moments, some huge like this and others small and sweet like the bluebirds in the birdbath. We just need to pay attention and be aware.
Our busy lives deaden us from nature so it's important to take time every day to notice something in nature that helps us feel connected to the natural world.
As the saying goes, "We are living on this planet as though we have another one to go to".

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wild Life Next Door

Living in the country among nature is something special. Now that we have Buddy, we have less wildlife coming onto our place because he guards it fiercely, so nowadays it's raccoons, possums or porcupines that he mainly chases away. However, on our neighbors large property next to us which he uses for hunting is something else. Our neighbor, Dick, installs motion cameras around his property to see what creatures are roaming about or living there. He has graciously shared some of those scenes that are spectacular. Here goes...
This is a rare sight of a deer trying to ward off others from the
hay pile. Have you ever seen a deer stand on its hind legs like
Looks like its working!
A deer herd eating hay left out for them. It's been
a tough winter with little grass available along with a
terrible disease that has decimated the deer population
in Nebraska.
This buck is taking a wide berth around the
porcupine. I don't blame him since I helped
take quills out of Buddy's nose and lip. I could
tell that the quills hurt him.
Bobcat out for a stroll...or...ready for the hunt
Mama bobcat and twins - pretty rare to see
Male turkeys fighting for territory. They wrap their
necks around each other and try to bite the tongue
of the other. Whoever gets his tongue bitten off will
lose and die. Pretty harsh reality in nature. This is a
rare sight as well.
A bull snake, big but beneficial. I've seen them
and am always surprised and a little creeped out;
however, I understand they are good guys.
Amazing pictures, aren't they?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Winter to Spring

We haven't had much winter in Nebraska this year but we've had a couple snow storms since the first of January. There are buds on the trees and bushes and I see tulips and daffodils poking through the ground.

I've planned my spring vegetable garden and have ordered my seeds. I've ordered the baby chicks for arrival the first week in April. So even though we are still officially in winter, spring is truly just around the corner.

We've started to see and hear the birds migrating - mostly geese so far. Our wild birds have been enjoying the easy food and water that we keep on the back deck.

Buddy has matured into a great watchdog. He patrols our little ranch at night and oftentimes corners a possum or a raccoon which creates all sorts of nighttime racket. He has done a great job keeping our place clean of critters and safe for the birds, both domestic and wild.

Above is snow sliding down the roof...
and almost ready to fall off...
A couple sparrows checked out this birdhouse all day. They cleaned out some of last years nest and spent time rearranging the rest. It looks like this house may be spoken for.

Everyday on the ground beneath the feeders there are many ground feeders helping themselves. The wild birds stay around all winter when there is plenty of food and ice free water. It delights me to watch them and their antics when not much else is happening in nature.
Robins stay around here all winter. They come in large flocks to drink the heated water and then to take baths. When they arrive, I have to fill the birdbath several times during the day.
Bluebirds stayed around this winter too.
The bluebirds in the tree are waiting their turn in the birdbath.

It's still windy, blustery, and cold but the birds are singing and checking out the birdhouses and seeming to be pairing up. Can spring be far behind?

I'm trying to enjoy each season as it comes and be patient for the next to arrive. At this time of year, it is hard to do this. I can look out the window and 'see' in my minds eye what spring has in store and frankly, I can't wait!