Monday, March 28, 2011


On March 21-24 we took a little field trip to the Platte River valley in Nebraska to see the annual migration of the Sandhill Cranes. Most of the cranes gather along a stretch of the Platte River in the Grand Island to Kearney, Nebraska area. The cranes reach their peak of 500,000+ in mid to late March and almost all are gone by mid-April. These birds stand almost 4 feet tall. They gather here in huge numbers to eat corn and soybeans to fatten up for the rest of the journey north. The cranes put on a great show. The sights and sounds of thousands of cranes gathered in one place at one time is truly spectacular and well worth the trip. We have posted more pictures of the cranes below.

During the day, we saw the cranes feeding in groups as small as three and as large as several thousand. They feed in the corn and soybean fields along the Platte River. Generally they will range out less than 10 miles from the river. When food is scarce, they will go 15 miles if they have to. Huge numbers of snow geese arrive in the Platte valley before the cranes and have been reducing the food supply available to the cranes.

This photograph was taken out of the window of a blind on the Platte River. We reserved two evening sessions, each of which lasted about three hours. As the cranes first flew over they were in small, well-organized V formations. These small groups are probably extended family, dad, grandpa, grandma, and the kids.

This is the right flank of a larger flock in V formation.

Cranes sometimes fly in the V formation, but as the flocks get larger, chaos seems to set in.

The cranes are rising off the fields many miles in the distance as evening approaches. They are heading for the Platte River to spend the night. They stand on the islands, sandbars, and in the shallows of the river where they are safer from predators.

Individual flocks are beginning to congregate in larger and larger groupings as they approach the Platte River.

The sight and sound of the birds in the eveing sky is truly astounding.

At sunset the cranes gather in larger and larger flocks and begin to fly up and down the river, in a huge circular pattern. This behavior went on for about half an hour. Our guide told us that the birds are nervous about setting down and nobody wants to be first on the river.

The sound reaches a crescendo as the thousands of cranes are settling on the river. The sound of the cranes is as impressive as the sight. Close to them, it becomes almost deafening. This continues until pitch darkness.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Redtail Hawk with rabbit kill on March 14, 2011. Many more Redtail Hawks around now that just a few weeks ago. We saw one pair setting up nesting today. On a day trip to the Mississippi we saw over 30 Bald Eagles, 5 pairs already sitting on nests, and best of all got a great look at one mature Golden Eagle on the ground with a kill.

Bufflehead and Greater Scaups on backwaters March 10, 2011.

Common Mergansers , male and female, on backwaters of Mississippi 2nd week of March.

Deer resting by our swing set. Saw 63 deer in a 3 mile stretch Just south of Forestville St. Park in Fillmore county, MN.

Ice fishermen during 2nd week of March-trying to get that last ice crappie.

Early spring fishing below dam on Mississippi while ice is still on the pool above the dam.