Nebraska Sandhill Cranes and more

with Jackie and Elston Hill

March 2019
In March 2019, we went to Kearney, Nebraska to see the Sandhill Crane
migration. Curiously, during migration some 80% of the sandhill cranes on
the planet migrate through an 80 mile wide corridor along the Platte River
between Kearney and Grand Island, Nebraska. The migration begins
across the southern US and Mexico and ends across Arctic Canada,
Alaska, and Siberia. The migration is shaped like an hour glass. During the
week we were there, an airplane flew up and photographed some 650,000
sandhill cranes in the area along the Platte River where we were.
When we flew into Omaha, Nebraska, we could see the swollen Missouri
River. A cold icy winter was followed by a warm rain which created flooding.
And worse for us, the numerous gravel roads were very generally very bad
and often impassable.
We arrive for an almost full moon.
Adults are gray overall. The average weight of the larger males is 10 lb while the average weight of females is 9 lb. Sandhill cranes have red
foreheads, white cheeks, and long, dark, pointed bills. In flight, their long, dark legs trail behind, and their long necks keep straight. The sexes
look alike.

These cranes frequently give a loud, trumpeting call that suggests a rolled "r" in the throat, and they can be heard from a long distance. Mated
pairs of cranes engage in "unison calling". The cranes stand close together, calling in a synchronized and complex duet. The female makes
two calls for every one from the male.

Sandhill cranes' large wingspans, typically 5 ft 5 in to 7 ft 7 in, make them very skilled soaring birds, similar in style to hawks and eagles. Using
thermals to obtain lift, they can stay aloft for many hours, requiring only occasional flapping of their wings, thus expending little energy.
Migratory flocks contain hundreds of birds, and can create clear outlines of the normally invisible rising columns of air (thermals) they ride.
We spent two weeks in Nebraska and our pictures are arranged consecutively in the order they were taken.

One morning warmed up with the first hint of spring and there were garter snakes everywhere.
Our first full day in Kearney we drove south to Harland County Lake near the border with Kansas to look for migrating white pelicans. We had
the good fortune to find a large number of these birds doing their own northern migration.
Sandhill cranes spend the night on sand bars on the Platte River to maintain their distance from predators such as coyotes.
During the day, the cranes spend their time in corn fields eating.
Cranes do a lot of dancing to impress each other. How much is mating and how much is pure pleasure is not really known.
Downtown Kearney looks a lot like it did
50 to 80 years ago.
Below, coming in at sunset.
Great car museum in Kearney.
Mammoth skeleton at the Nebraska Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Train station, now a museum, in Omaha, Nebraska.
Bob Kerry walking bridge across the Missouri River walking across from Iowa to Nebraska.