Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thursday afternoon in Nebraska

I have finally downloaded all of my memory cards unto my desktop computer. Now what? How do you present a coherent selection from so many shots? I decided to do it chronologically and show you some pictures from each day, pretty much in the order they were taken.
I wanted to go to Kearney, Nebraska, because 80% (1/2 million) of the world's Sandhill Cranes pass through there. They rest & bulk up in the Platte River Basin for about a month before continuing their migration to the Arctic, Canada & U.S., and even Siberia. The cranes are joined by 7 to 9 million ducks, 3 to 5 million geese, and other water fowl.
The Snow Geese will probably leave Kearney during the next two weeks; the Cranes will be there through March and early April.

As we neared Kearney, we saw tons of Cackling Geese and various ducks in the many ponds surrounding the area.

Cackling Geese in small groups . . .

. . . and in large flocks.

The "tiny" birds in the background are Snow Geese, flying very high.

I was especially fascinated by the ever changing patterns of the Snow Geese in flight. They would make a great, moving screen saver.

Our first major discovery of the day was this Common Crane in the middle of the picture. I had never heard of it; it's not even listed in most field guides. The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America describes it as a "Eurasian species, casual vagrant on the Great Plains, accidental farther east; almost always with migrating flocks of Sandhill Cranes." A few are seen most years in Kearney, but our group was the first to report one this season. For more details, take a look at Birdchick's blog entry of March 8.

Amber & Birdchick checking out the Common Crane.

Every open field had large & small flocks of Sandhills.

At dusk, the cranes would fly to roost on the flats by the Platte River.

At dark, we finally returned to our motel, anxiously awaiting the morning and our first stop for Friday, the blinds at Rowe Sanctuary. This meant we had to get up before 4 a.m., and find some coffee & rolls, before setting out. We were due at the blinds by about 5:15 so as not to disturb the birds.
Tomorrow, pictures from Friday morning.