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The Song of the Sandhill Cranes By Gary Howey

  As we made our way along the half-mile trail in the dark to the photography blind at the Rowe Sanctuary near Kearney, Nebraska, the distinctive calls of the Sandhill Cranes echoed across the Platte River valley.  

  Once you have heard their calls, which can carry over a mile, it is something you will remember, as it seems they are always chattering, no matter what time of the day or night!

  Unfamiliar with the miles needed to travel to Rowe Sanctuary, we arouse at 4:30 am, arriving at the sanctuary well before our 6:00 am scheduled trip to the photo blind.

  The photo blind positioned on the shore just far enough away from the cranes to allow photos and videos to be taken, yet not to close to frighten the birds. These photographic opportunities at Rowe Sanctuary are available several times a day including one 6:00 am and again at 6:00 pm.

  We were not sure what to expect for bird numbers as the weather for this time of the year was warmer than usual and there was some concern that many of the birds may have gone through.

  Our concerns were answered the day before as we drew close to Kearney on I-80, in the fields on both sides of the interstate were large flocks of feeding cranes.

  As we approached the bind, the noise coming from the river at times was deafening and as the sun light worked its way up river, the song of the Sandhill Cranes became louder as thousands of Cranes appeared before us, a sight that is hard to describe. 

  Thousands of these tall gray birds appeared before us, some resting on the sand bars, wadding and feeding in the shallow water, while several of the males performed before us, trying to impress the females around them.

As the Cranes come through the Kearney area, on their way to their matting grounds, it is not unusual to see the males doing their dance, displaying, hoping to impress one of the females.

  Each spring over eighty percent of the Sandhill Crane population, estimated to be at 650,000 migrates through the Kearney area, “The Sandhill Crane Capital of the World.” Thousands of visitors from throughout the world travel here to observe these birds and on the morning we visited the sanctuary, I observed vehicles from Wisconsin, Iowa, California, South Dakota, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado, Georgia, Missouri and Manitoba Canada in the parking lot. www.rowe.audubon.org        

  Throughout the day, no matter which direction you would look, there were always flocks of birds in the air or feeding in the fields, seeming not to be concerned with the vehicles, photographers and others observing them as the cranes went through their daily routine.

  Kearney, known for the Sandhill Cranes, also has numerous other attractions and if you are into the outdoors, history or classic cars, these are but a few of the things in and around Kearney, making it a great vacation destination.

  History has always been my thing and we history buffs will not be disappointed as there is plenty of history in the area.

  You cannot miss the Archway that spans I-80 as you come into Kearney; this majestic building is a history lesson in itself. The exhibits inside include the Oregon Trail which ran through this part of Nebraska, the Pony Express, gold panning, early railroads, the driving of the “Golden Spike”, the Lincoln Highway and much, much more. archway.org/

   Nebraska’s State Historical Park Fort Kearny was the first fort to protect travelers on the Oregon Trail. It was also a home station for the Pony express riders and the Pawnee scouts serving with the U.S. Army.  On the site, you will find a walking trail, State Historical sign, and reconstructed buildings: a blacksmith shop, stockade, powder magazine, carpenter-blacksmith shop and the Ft. Kearny State Park Bridge on the Platte River. outdoornebraska.gov/fortkearny

  Kearney is where the “Worlds’ Foremost Outfitter” Cabela’s placed their second store, located on Highway 30 on the northeast edge of the city, it has expanded several times and has everything someone like me who loves the outdoors would ever need or want. www.cabelas.com

  If you are into cars, you do not want to miss the Classic Cars that is located adjacent to the Cabela’s store. There, you will see over 200 cars, historic automobiles from the early 1900’s to the modern era,

with displays from the cars era. From limited edition, Royal Royce, to automobiles that many of us may have never heard of such as the Rover are featured at Classic Cars.

  You will find the cars of your youth, those you and I cruised the main drag of the town we grew up in as well as some high performance muscle cars we dreamed of owning when we were younger.

  Beautifully displayed, at the drive in theater and the malt shop, there you will find Fords Mustang, limited edition Fairlane, Chevy Corvettes, Camaro, Chevelles, Nomads, Pontiac GTO, Firebird, Plymouth Road Runner Barracuda, Dodge, Charger and Super Bee that can be driven either on the street or down a quarter mile drag strip.

    If you are into cars, it may take you awhile to get through the display and if you were not into cars when you went in, you could possibly be before you leave. www.ccckearney.com

  The number of Sandhill Cranes and other waterfowl migrating through the Kearney area is amazing and if you have not had, an opportunity to see this, it is something I would highly recommend. 

  The trip to view the Sandhill Crane migration and other sights the Kearney area is one you should take and if you can’t make it this year should be added to your buckets list as there is much to see and do in and around Kearney, NE.. https://visitkearney.org

 

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Cranes are one of our greatest wildlife spectacles By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal.

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. | They came in at mid day on tired wings. Flock after flock after flock of large gray birds trailing long, black legs. They swung over the Platte River as if checking to see if it were still there.

Then they glided away toward nearby fields where they would alight with hundreds, if not thousands, of their own kind.

Most had ridden the strong southerly winds probably all the way from Texas or beyond where they had spent the winter. Now their inner clocks were pushing them northward.

This was the famed sandhill crane migration.

Fran and I were here on a spur of the moment whim. We had never seen the migrating cranes. After a little research on the Internet we grabbed our cameras and left. People from around the world gather to observe this phenomenon which takes place along a 40-mile stretch of the Platte between Kearney and Grand Island. Some 500,000 cranes will pass through here each spring. That’s about 90 percent of the world’s population.

Crane watching is so popular here that it is estimated to bring more than $10.3 million to the local economy, [Read more…]