Seniors Flock To The Sandhill Crane Migration

For five weeks each spring, senior visitors to the Platte River Valley in south-central Nebraska can enjoy the symphony of sounds and dancing rituals of 90 percent of the world’s sandhill cranes.

The Cranes are very large, tall birds with a long neck, long legs, and very broad wings. My wife and I were amazed at their size and number as we viewed the birds in fields all along Interstate 80 near Kearney.

Approximately 500,000 sandhill cranes stop to gain energy from the fertile lands along the Platte River. Just imagine witnessing the gathering of half a million cranes under a blazon Nebraska sunset. The experience will stir your senses and spark your imagination like few experiences can.

Kearney is where I would advise that senior travelers park to watch this phenomenal site. About 80 percent or more of the world’s sandhill cranes will visit the Platte during March through Mid-April.

During the night, the cranes rest on the Platte River, and then feed in fields within 3 miles of the river during the day.

Stay in your car for best viewing like we did, and do not drive into the fields to get a closer look. Cranes are wary, and besides landowner permission is required when entering private property.

In addition to the cranes this time of year, you can view 7-10 million ducks and geese that use the Platte River and the neighboring Rainwater Basin wetlands. More than 2 million snow geese made a stop in the area last spring alone. The arrival of these waterfowl is celebrated at the Spring Wing Ding in Clay Center.

The excitement of the crane season is further enhanced by events like the Wings Over the Platte celebration in Grand Island and the Rivers and Wildlife Celebration in Kearney. Both offer senior visitors a variety of tours with experienced birders and informational workshops.

Seniors Become Birders With The Cranes

Rowe Sanctuary’s viewing blinds are strategically placed along the Platte River to provide excellent views of the Sandhill Cranes while they are on their river roost. Viewings are scheduled daily during March and early April.

They last approximately two hours and are led by trained guides. Walking distances to the viewing blinds range from 1/4 to 1/2 mile over relatively level terrain, with a portion of the walk occurring during low light conditions (before sunrise/after sunset).

 In the evenings, the cranes return to the river itself to roost overnight. They favor broad channels with abundant bare sandbars where large groups of cranes can congregate in large noisy masses of up to 50,000 or more.

As the sun starts to go down, wave upon wave of sandhill cranes drop gracefully into the river like so many floating cottonwood seeds.

Make plans now be part of the entourage who enjoy bird watching at this annual spectacular occurrence. It’s a pure adventure providing many memories.  jeb

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