By Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader
Third in a series about the Delaware Nature Society trip to Nebraska.
March in Nebraska weather-wise can be very unpredictable. It may be in the 70’s one day, and the next…back to winter! Our second full day in Nebraska, we had quite a surprise when we opened our doors. Six inches of snow, temperatures in the 20’s, and wind strong enough to huddle up the cattle into tight groups, let alone people. We set out to see Sharp-tailed Grouse displaying on their lek. Would they even show up on such a miserable morning? The answer was yes. Would they dance? Well…maybe a little.
We left the snow behind us quickly, and proceeded to Fort Kearney Historic Site and Recreation Area. Here, we walked a rail-trail over the Platte River and got our first view of this important waterway. For a river that starts in the Rockies of Colorado and Wyoming, and travelling hundreds of miles until this point, it is pitifully small. Thank a few large dams upstream and huge amounts of water siphoned for irrigation along its length for the river’s modern day reality. No longer does this beautiful prairie river swell with Rocky Mountain floodwaters and meander along it’s vast grassland floodplain.
Our walk along the rail-trail was windy and cold, but did produce one bird we were looking for, the Harris’s Sparrow. In a flock with Dark-eyed Juncos, we found three of these beautiful birds.
We looked forward to our adventures the next day…exploring the Rainwater Basin and the dramatic return of the Sandhill Cranes to the Platte River in the evening. More on that later…