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".


Janet said...

Interesting that you have this on your blog. We had a person at the hospice house with their computer showing this same thing. She said she's been there and, like you say, it is amazing. I watched it for some time with her and she said the noise gets very loud. Last weekend Joyce and I were driving back and forth from Nancy's house and SF and saw a lot of birds flying and landing in fields. They looked like they were white, could that have been the cranes? Thanks for all the great pictures and from your last blog with all the wildlife. Wonderful.

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