ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Life on The Platte River with Deb at Kearney, Nebraska

Updated on April 4, 2015
Source
Source

An Overview of the Sandhill Crane's Temporary Home

From February to mid-April, a birder’s place to be could be Kearney(pronounced "Carney"), NE. Touted as the Sandhill Crane Capital of the world for forty-five years, it is home to half a million Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River during this time frame. These cranes will not be “in-your-face,” but they are definitely recognizable from a short distance. Blinds can be purchased through the Rowe Sanctuary at the Audubon Center during the day, as well as overnight for various fees, and the cranes can be seen on sandbars much nearer than the general public will ever hope to get. However, unless you book these coveted spots in January, you will not have a chance to get closer photographs of the Lesser Sandhill Crane subspecies.

Visitors are welcome, but should remain in their cars and definitely not take it upon themselves to venture on private property. These beautiful cranes are temporarily gaining weight and resting in order to go to their breeding grounds in the Arctic and subarctic, a long and grueling flight.

Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird | Source

Where to See Birds

Not only will you see Sandhill Cranes in the area, there are other attractions for any discriminating birder. Nebraska hosts several pristine and important wildlife areas, like the Plautz viewing site on Elm Island Rd. As a matter of fact, this was the only location where I was able to observe the Yellow-headed Blackbird for a short time. Do take note that these blackbirds are often with other blackbirds, who are very gregarious, so watch your flocks carefully.

Sandhill Cranes can be seen in this area during sunrise and sunset, where they will settle on sandbars for the night. The Platte River is no more than a foot deep, but up to a mile wide in certain areas. You might even be fortunate enough, also during sunrise and sunset on the railroad bridge hike/bike trail to observe these birds as they fall in during the evening or arise during the first light of morning.

Source

The Nebraska State Bird, the Eastern Meadowlark, will provide many chances for observation. This tall, brown bird avails itself in grassy country. When surprised, it will take flight, showing conspicuous white sides on a short tail with shallow and snappy wingbeats and short glides. When the bird perches on fenceposts or similar, the chest shows a beautiful lemon yellow, crossed by a black “V.” These birds favor pastures, prairies, edges of marshes, and meadowland.

Also to be observed, is the very similar Western Meadowlark. Both species are nearly identical, but the western variety is paler above and on the flanks, as well as more streaked with a buff color. The yellow throat reaches the malar area behind the bill, and the real clincher is when the bird becomes vocal, as the call is much different.

Male American Wigeon
Male American Wigeon | Source

Almost across from the Rowe Audubon Center is a small private pond, with several varieties of ducks, like the American Wigeon the Blue-winged Teal, and the Mallard. Nebraska offers many natural birding areas, due to the fact that it is in the wheat and corn belt, so they are a number of fields and undisturbed areas where these priceless birds may rest and recover from the long flights that they endure.

Mallard Drake
Mallard Drake | Source

Cottonmill Park, A Local Birder's Paradise

Another valuable area that should not be missed is Cottonmill Park, west of the University of Nebraska. It is good sized, and hosts songbirds as well as waterbirds. If you meet the right people, you could even be directed to the nest of a Great Horned Owl. Easily seen are the White-breasted Nuthatch, warblers, Downy Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmouse, Belted Kingfishers and their nest cavities. These observations were made in only a couple of hours, so many treasures were not even seen in the park. It is also easy to see Sandhill Cranes overhead.

Source

Perhaps you have been enticed with what Nebraska has to offer in the spring. Take a chance, as you may not be able to see the Lesser Sandhill Crane variety, unless you travel elsewhere.

Keep your eyes on the ground and your head in the clouds. Happy birding!

Sunrise on the Platte River
Sunrise on the Platte River | Source
Sandhill Crane Fallout at Dusk
Sandhill Crane Fallout at Dusk | Source
Sandhill Crane Dance
Sandhill Crane Dance | Source

© 2015 Deb Hirt

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Glimmer Twin Fan! They sure are striking birds, no question. They also have quite a "silent" vocabulary, too, as all the different movements mean different things. It is nearly like an orchestration of behavior.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

      We saw Sandhill Cranes on a vacation a few years ago in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. What a site! I'd never seen them before and here were these glorious statuesque birds all around. Great hub!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Peg, there were groupings a lot larger than that. By the time it is all said and done, there are about half a million cranes in the area.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Beautiful photos, Deb, and an interesting rundown on the area in Nebraska. That first picture, at first I thought the Sandhill cranes were Emu by the way they were grouped together.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      ChitrangadaSharan, the Kearney, NE area is only a birder's mecca when the Sandhill Cranes are resting for their migration, from February to mid-April. Other than that, it is a quiet little area in the Cornbelt of the Midwest.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Deergha, my work is as simplistic as reading a book or building a model, just like anyone else would do. I just walk around to see what I can find. It is the orchestral ensemble that makes me, not vice versa.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Wow! Lovely pictures of these beautiful creatures. You are an amazing photographer.

      I have never been to this lovely place, Platte river at Kearney, Nebraska. Thanks for sharing this interesting information! Voted up!

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Great informative read. Love the Sandhill cranes. I treasure your knowledge of birds that you share. Many thanks.

    • dghbrh profile image

      deergha 2 years ago from ...... a place beyond now and beyond here !!!

      Like always, a very refreshing hub my friend. The pics are breath taking. How much I wish to be with you some day to view how you work, must be amazing really!!

      Shared and voted up interesting.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi Deb,

      You are exploring Nebraska now - the land of Big Ten's Nebraska Cornhuskers. The pictures of yellow-headed blackbird and those mallards taking off are awesome.

      The only pictures I have of Sandhills is from Florida, which I explored back in 2002.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      All right, Chris. You never know, you could end up around here somewhere for a while. In the meanwhile, you can tell me about the Oregonian birds.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Deb, I'll be on a tight schedule to get to Medford, Oregon from Philadelphia for my next contract job, so I'll have to take the fastest route. That takes me through Nebraska. I'll keep that offer in mind as I roam the country though.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      No, Mel, I wish they were, as it would be tax deductible.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Is your newspaper sending you on all these fun birding junkets?

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Chris, the cranes will be gone in early June, but if you go through OK, let's meet, and I'll take you around Boomer Lake, if you have the time. I graduate May 25th, and should actually have my ornithology degree in hand September....(grin)

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Mel! That species, the Mississippi Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis pulla, is yet another subspecies of crane. There are six of them at this point, three of which are endangered. This is an excellent area for birding, and I need to get my act together to write another two stories on the rest of my adventure. I still have yet another one coming up in three weeks...

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Deb, the Sandhill Crane is among my favorite birds. I don't know that I've ever gotten a really good photo of them. They are easily spooked, it seems. I just read about the Yellow-headed Blackbird a few days ago. And now I see it here in your hub. I'll be watching for these beauties. Great photos. Loved the one of the Mallards taking flight off the water. I'll probably be passing through Nebraska in early June. Any chance there will still be some birds in these places if I am passing close to them?

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      I had the pleasure of seeing the Sandhill Cranes at the Bosque Del Apache wildlife refuge in New Mexico a few years back. I still have not encountered any Yellow Headed Blackbirds or Eastern Meadowlarks. This looks like a great place for birding. Great hub and photos, as always!

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, ps! You have a different variety of crane, too, even though they are basically the same, Florida sandhill crane, Grus canadensis pratensis. I would like to see your cranes, too.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Jackie. I used the build-your-own choice for animals, so I forgot to put the capsule. Thanks for helping me out, as sometimes my mind is definitely elsewhere.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Alicia. I still have two more pieces to do that were part of this trip, and will be heading to High Island for spring migration, so lots of things are in the works.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      We have sandhill cranes here and right now babies are being born. This is the first year I have ever seen them so it is quite a treat.

      What an array of birds to see besides the crane, a feast for a birder's eyes no doubt.

      Voted up+++ and shared.

      Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Great tour and fun photos! See you got the comments fixed! Always something isn't it and now the everlasting battle to see 90! lol

      ^+

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I'm very happy to read another hub about birds from you, Deb. I enjoy learning about places that I've never visited through your photos and descriptions. As always, this is an interesting article.

    Click to Rate This Article