Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sandhill Cranes on the Platt River NE

On the 17th of March, Marjie and I visited the Rowe Sanctuary just outside of Kearney Nebraska on the Platt River. This is the mid point period in the annual Lesser Sandhill Crane migration. Starting about the last week in February and lasting until the middle of April over 500,000 Sandhill Cranes migrate north and stop along a 50 mile stretch of the Platt River. The Rowe Sanctuary is operated by the Audubon Society and protects about a 10 mile stretch of this river. Click on any picture for a larger view.
. The cranes roost in the very shallow water of the Platt and at dawn fly out to feed in the corn fields that line the river banks. At dusk they return to the river. The cranes will stay here on the Platt for 3 to 4 weeks and fatten up. Their finial destination is the arctic nesting regions stretching from Hudson's Bay on the east to Siberia on the west. Once they leave the Platt they will not feed again until they reach the arctic. The week we were there over 300,000 Sandhill Cranes were on the river. The noise at fly out and fly in was indescribable.

These very beautiful birds stand 3 1/2 to 4 feet tall with a very noticeable red patch on their heads. Fossil evidence indicates that the cranes have been stopping here for thousands of years.

Sandhill Cranes mate for life and preform a very unusual "dance" which strengthens their bond.

The annual spring migration of the Sandhill Cranes through this narrow area of the Platt River has been called one of the wonders of the natural world comparable to the wildebeest migration on the Serengeti. This is a spectacle that can be seen at no other place.
Some of the sunsets over the Platt were quite beautiful. If you are ever in Nebraska in March do yourself a favor and stop at the Rowe Sanctuary. It's a spectacle you will never forget.

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