Nebraska Part V: The Return of the Cranes

Fifth in a series about the Delaware Nature Society trip to Nebraska in March.

By Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader

“When we hear his call we hear no mere bird.  We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution.  He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.”  By Aldo Leopold from A Sand County Almanac regarding the Sandhill Crane.

With temperatures in the 20’s and winds whipping, we were dressed more for the Sandhill Crane arctic breeding grounds than Nebraska.  In the evening, thousands of cranes, mostly Lesser Sandhills with some Greater Sandhills mixed in, return to the Platte River to roost for the night.  If you are a crane, the shallow water of the wide river is a safe spot to see and hear predators approaching at night. 

As the sounds of distant croaking and trumpeting fill the air and grow in volume, flock after flock pour onto the river.  The partly cloudy day dissolved into a glowing sunset, perfect as a backdrop for the descending cranes.

We were treated to a blind all to ourselves at the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary to closely observe the return of thousands of Sandhill Cranes to their night-roost on the Platte River.
We were treated to a blind all to ourselves at the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary to closely observe the return of thousands of Sandhill Cranes to their night-roost on the Platte River.

In a blind all to ourselves, Kent Skaggs from the Sanctuary was our guide.  His interpretation of the scene was wonderful.  As the sun set, the cranes kept coming in.  Just when we thought the river couldn’t fit more, the flock kept growing, until the river was brimming with them.  The mixture of the adult’s bugling, wailing, and trumpeting sounds, plus the squealing of juveniles was overwhelming.  We forgot the cold weather and wind as we witnessed one of the most beautiful and dramatic wildlife scenes in all of North America. 

Enjoy this little video clip of the return of the Sandhill Cranes.

 

Keep posted for the grand finale of our trip…

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