Ever wonder what wildlife viewing was like when John Muir and Aldo Leopold were alive?
I have and wondered if it’s possible to see a fraction of what they witnessed before economic growth and urbanization destroyed many wild areas.
It turns out you can still get an inkling of what they felt when surrounded by a large biomass of living creatures. Each spring hundreds of thousands of Sandhill Cranes pass over Nebraska’s Platte River. By mid-March thousands of cranes are gathered along the river and in neighboring fields and photographers and birdwatchers flock to the area (pun intended).
Two years ago, I huddled on a wooden bench as the cold sunk into my bones, squinting through a small opening in a wildlife blind as cranes landed on the dark marsh. The guttural cries of several thousand Sandhill Cranes washed over me and made my birdwatcher’s heart smile. I wasn’t too late to see one of North America’s greatest migrations!
The cranes stay in Nebraska for several weeks to add much-needed body weight before flying north to breed. When they arrive in their nesting areas it may be weeks before the food becomes easily available.
The best places to see the cranes are between Kearney and Grand Island, Nebraska including:
- Iain Nicolson Audubon Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon is ground zero for crane watching with tours and viewing blinds that get you close to the birds without disturbing them. http://rowe.audobon.org
- The Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center in Alda also has blinds for great viewing. http://cranetrust.org
- To learn more about cranes come for the Audubon Nebraska’s Crane Festival and enjoy lectures, a play and tours. https://nebraskacranefestival.org
- Don’t miss the chance to sample Laotian cuisine at the Vientiane Restaurant in Grand Island. The flavors will stay with you as long as memories of the cranes.
To see how it feels to sit among thousands of cranes watch my video click here.
The migration usually lasts until mid April. If you are wondering if it is worth traveling all the way to Nebraska to see a bunch of birds, consider that Dr. Jane Goodall loves to watch the crane migration. If one of the greatest animal lovers on the planet considers it worth her time to visit Nebraska, perhaps you should too!