Sandhills on the Platte | Morning Flight

Sandhills on the Platte | Morning Flight

Sandhills on the Platte | Morning Flight   In the early morning, the Sandhills lift off the river to eat in nearby fields. They take flight in groups of hundreds; even thousands, even 10,000s, at one time.  To see the entire story with all seven images, go to Sandhills on the Platte | a 7 Image Story. 

Sandhills on the Platte | Sunrise Flight

Sandhills on the Platte | Sunrise Flight

Sandhills on the Platte | Sunrise Flight   At first light, the Sandhills begin to lift off the river to eat in nearby corn fields.  A little sun, a little fog, and a few hundred thousand Sandhill Cranes make for a beautiful sunrise on the Platte River.  To see the entire story with all seven images, go to Sandhills on the Platte | a 7 Image Story. 

Sandhills on the Platte | Platte River Sunrise

Sandhills on the Platte | Platte River Sunrise

Sandhills on the Platte | Platte River Sunrise  It’s just after o’dark thirty and just before sunrise.  The Sandhills are still relatively quiet while roosting on the Platte River.  Soon, they’ll be waking and taking flight.  The birds are still hidden just beyond back water and weeds.  To see the entire story with all seven images, go to Sandhills on the Platte | a 7 Image Story. 

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!

Just After O’dark Thirty

Just After O'dark Thirty

Just After O’dark Thirty  Why awake and be on location by o’dark thirty?  Photogs know all to well.  Moreover, photographers as well as bird watchers, nature lovers, and many others will gather, as they do every year in mid March, to see the Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River in Nebraska. The cranes lift off the river just after sunrise.  In this image, they are still roosting on the river just below the horizon.  They leave the river in flocks sometimes numbering in the thousands, even tens of thousands.