Every February, the Sandhill Cranes begin to arrive to central Nebraska, numbering up to 600,000 birds. These magnificent birds stand four feet tall, have a six foot wingspan and fill the air with their "krroo, krroo." This is the halfway point of their journey from southern Texas to northern Canada. They stage their migration, stopping to rest and refuel for six weeks in the shallow waters of the Platte River, scouring the countryside for bits of corn left from last year's harvest.
It truly is an amazing experience, and there is nothing else quite like it in the entire world. Last year, visitors from all fifty states and thirty five countries came for the spectacle, and it was the subject of a National Geographic special. We went last year and again this year, spending a day and half observing them in the field as they searched for food, danced and strutted. We took part in a class, learning about the behaviors we witnessed throughout the day. The highlight was sunset as the birds came in from miles around to roost on the sandbars of the Platte River.
But of course, all my children were interested in was exploring under the highway bridge and throwing sticks in the water. My son summed up this aspect of our field trip thus:
Mom, that was the best field trip ever.My daughter concurred.
(If you are interested, you can view the cranes via the Crane Cam courtesy of National Geographic through April 6. The best times are near sunrise and sunset, when the birds are getting ready to leave or coming in to roost.)