Sandhills on the Platte | a 7 Image Story

Sandhills on the Platte | Sunrise FlightSandhills on the Platte | a 7 Image Story  Every year from mid February to the first week of April, most of the planet’s Sandhill Cranes converge along 75-mile stretch of the Platte River near Kearney, Nebraska.  The gathering represents the closest thing to the Serengeti we have in the lower 48.   It’s one of the world’s top three great wildlife migrations.  More than 500,00 Sandhills stop on the Platte to rest and gain weight on their flight from southern USA and Mexico to Canada, Alaska, and Siberia, where the have their young.

If you have never been to this Great Sandhill Crane Migration, it’s worth the trip at least once in your life.  Each day, it starts at o’dark thirty along the bends in the Platte River.  At first light, the Sandhills begin to lift off the river to eat in nearby corn fields.  They take flight in groups of hundreds; even thousands, even 10,000s, at one time.  A little sun, a little fog, and a few hundred thousand Sandhill Cranes make for a beautiful sunrise on the Platte River.  During the day, the cranes eat grain left over from last fall’s crop, mostly corn, in nearby fields.  Then, in late afternoon and early evening, they come back to the river in great flocks to roost overnight on the river.  The Platte River in this area is shallow and filled with sand bars.  The cranes safely roost on the river since they can hear their predators, like coyotes, coming through the water.  Being very smart birds, they actually post sentries to take turns staying awake during the night to warn the flock, if a predator comes their way.

Sandhill Cranes are among the world’s oldest species.  They mate for life and return to the same place each year to have their young.  They live in freshwater and eat a large variety of foods including plants, grains, mice, snakes, insects, or worms.  Sandhills usually nest in wetlands.  Females lay two eggs while both parents incubate.  Males also defend the nest.  Sandhills love to sing and dance; leap high in the air.  The birds are naturally gray with their heads topped with a crimson crown.  Sometimes, they preen themselves by adding a brown mud to their feathers.  For more information on Sandhill Cranes and their great migration, see the Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary.

Each image will be posted individually this week with a bit more narrative under category Sandhills on the Platte.

Click any image below for a slide show!

Ski Plane Weekend | a 7 Image Story

Ski Plane Weekend | Piper Cub on SkisSki Plane Weekend | a 7 Image Story  Usually, the lakes are frozen and there’s plenty of snow for the annual Ski Plane Weekend.  Some of the finest pilots from around the country take leave from their heavy iron and bush flying to gather together on this weekend to fly ski planes just for the fun of it.  This year, it’s a bit different.  Northern Michigan had a big flaw, which melted most of the snow.  The best we could fly was a Super Cub on tundra tires.  Let’s look back to earlier years.

Although some pilots bring their planes with skis, mostly we fly the Piper J-3 Cub on skis and the Piper PA-18 Super Cub on skis.  Most pilots love to fly both planes.  The skis add a bit of spice to life in the winter.  Add a snow shower and we pilots have dreams of being a bush pilot.  And, they have sticks, not a yokes.  They bring us back to the basics; no moving maps or no retractable gear; in fact, the J-3 does not even a battery.  Yep, you have to hand prop it.  The Cub’s standard chrome yellow paint known as “Cub Yellow” identifies it as one of the best known aircraft of all time.

Each image will be posted individually this week with a bit more narrative under category Ski Plane Weekend.

Click any image below for a slide show!


Husky Dogsled Party | a 7 Image Story

Husky Dogsled Party | Dogsled HuskiesHusky Dogsled Party | a 7 Image Story  Each year in January or February, the Free Spirit Siberian Rescue organization hosts a Husky Dogsled event in northern Illinois, with Huskies galore.  Jake and Elwood have gone for the past several years.  They love to run and play in the snow.  They would rather be outside running, playing, working, or just taking a nap in the snow than anything else, except possibly eating.  Elwood has different colored eyes, a fairly common Husky trait.  Although grey and white colors are common in Huskies like Jake, they really come in many color combinations including pure white.

Although it was a beautiful day with intermittent sun and snow showers, the trail had not been groomed like they typically are for races, so the dogs had to break a new trail in the snow.  Rescued Huskies coming to the event can run as part of a dogsled team.   As natural sled pullers, Huskies instinctively know they should pull the sled with other Huskies in their new pack.  When the harnessed dogs are being attached to the sled, they are very excited; barking, jumping, and talking “Husky”.  As soon the musher calls “mush”, the dogs all become quiet and start pulling the sled.  As soon as the sled stops, they go back to barking and howling.

Several dogs in the team were newcomers to dog sledding.  That’s Jake and Elwood in the center of the pack.  This outing was their first time pulling a dogsled and they ran beautifully.  Of course, they were in the middle of the pack.  The lead dogs are the most experienced and the specially trained to be lead dogs.  What many folks don’t know is that the last two dogs are specially trained to be the “wheel dogs.”   Of course, wheel dogs are also the primary view for sled riders.

Each image will be posted individually this week with a bit more narrative under category Husky Dogsled Party.

Click any image below for a slide show!