Thursday, March 26, 2009

What do you do after seeing a Whooping Crane?

You go to a blind & look for more Cranes!

Meadowlarks are scarce around the Twin Cities (Minnesota). It was a real treat to see so many of them on the Nebraska prairies.

For our evening blind experience, Stan had arranged for us to go to Wings Over The Platte , a facility reopened by the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, after being closed for a year. The volunteers running it are very nice and anxious to please. The video photographer in this photo joined us to shoot footage for the Chamber's publicity program to attract visitors.

The view from our blind was gorgeous. However, the blind was not designed for photography. The slits for viewing were only about 4" tall (except for one opening in the blind which was still too small for a camera on a tripod). They need to change this since many of the visitors go into the blinds to take pictures.

Across the river, these turkeys were looking for a place to roost.

There were lots of ducks on the river.

Female Common Merganser

Two male Common Mergansers paddled by our blind.

This one didn't want to stick around.

The Cranes were slow in coming in. However, the numbers increased as the sun set.

It was getting dark, and they were flying over our blind. Yet there was something wrong!

The Sandhills were flying close to us, but instead of landing on the islands in the Platte in front of our blind, many decided to land in the field BEHIND our blind, blocking the way to our bus!

It was getting dark -- we were sworn not to do anything to disturb the Cranes -- yet how would we get back to our bus? The above photo shows only the first Cranes; as the darkness deepened, more and more of them came in. After lengthy negotiations, which lasted a good half-hour or more, we convinced our guides to let us try to walk around the Cranes. The Cranes took off anyway! However, they have good night vision and often fly at night. We were sure they would find another roosting place -- particularly since we were hungry for supper at Skeeter's.
It had been an excellent day since we had seen a Whooping Crane! It had been a good day since we had enjoyed not only the Sandhill Cranes, but also a plethora of waterfowl. It was time to celebrate with a good meal and local brew on tap.
next: our final day and return to Minnesota