|Sandhill cranes are landing in central Nebraska|
LINCOLN, NEB. (March 3, 2008)—One of the great spectacles of the natural world – the migration of 650,000 Sandhill cranes – has begun. From March through mid-April, these birds from ancient lineage will fill the skies over central Nebraska. By day, the huge grey clouds of birds forage over and on Nebraska cropland. Come dusk, they swoop into the Platte River valley, where they roost for the night.
"This migration has been occurring for tens of thousands of years and is truly an amazing sight to witness," said Bill Taddicken, director of the Audubon Society's Rowe Sanctuary east of Kearney. "For birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts in general, this is definitely a must-see event."
Bird enthusiasts from around the United States marvel at the sights and sounds of the migration. Sandhill cranes leap and flap in mating dances as they feast in the fields on insect larvae and corn left from the fall harvest. The birds are resting and recharging as they anticipate the climax of their long flight from Mexico and the southern United States to summer nesting areas in Alaska, northern Canada and Siberia. In all, 80 percent of the world's Sandhill cranes migrate through central Nebraska.
Crane watching doesn't require a lot of specialized equipment, but visitors, whether hiking or just observing, need to dress warmly. Layering is a good strategy to preserve body heat on the hike-bike trail and in viewing blinds, and don't forget warm headwear, socks, boots and gloves or mittens.
There are lots of opportunities to see the cranes: roadside parking sites, hike and bike trails and viewing sites and blinds at wildlife sanctuaries.
At Wings Over the Platte Nature Center, there will be a morning and evening blind tour for $30 per person. Wings Over the Platte also has a bridge tour, which is $8 per person. GROW Nebraska will run a gift shop at the center selling Nebraska products, and there will be a coffee and snack bar open in the center as well. The center is open from March to April for tours. For more information, go online to visitgrandisland.com/page/251/.
The Ian Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary will also have both morning and evening viewings. Rowe’s blinds are fully enclosed structures that hold 26 to 32 people each. A field trip is $25 per person and prepayment is required. For the serious nature photographer, Rowe also offers photo blinds set close to the crane roost sites. Blinds are available for $150 a night; maximum capacity is two people. For more details, call 308-468-5282, or visit rowesanctuary.org.
Other sites to observe cranes include:
Sandhill crane fast facts:
For more information on Nebraska Tourism, or to order your free 2009 Nebraska Travel Guide, check out VisitNebraska.gov, your one-stop shop for Nebraska travel.
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