Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 81--Sandhill Cranes

This morning my sis and I were up before dawn to see what was happening with the local sandhill cranes. The cranes come to the Platte River in Nebraska each spring to feed in the corn fields adjacent to the river. The feeding area spans the river from Sutherland on the west to Grand Island on the east, a distance of 165 miles. We were staying in North Platte, so we were on the west side which is not the primary staging/feeding area. Nevertheless, this morning we spent over an hour at sunrise watching at least 10,000 sandhills greeting the day with their constant calling and dancing with each other. It was quite amazing to behold, and impossible to really capture on film as the 2 photos above don't begin to do justice to what we were seeing.

We finally broke away to begin our trek over to Colorado seeing black-billed magpie and the dark morph of the red-tailed hawk on the way. We spent most of the afternoon in the Pawnee Grasslands which is comprised of both short and long grass prairie. There was not a lot of diversity in the birdlife this early in the spring, but we did see plenty of horned larks and northern harriers plus a rough-legged hawk and a few early migrating McCown's longspurs. New year birds included great horned owl and prairie falcon to go along with the magpie. We finished the day with 12 more new birds for the week and the YTD total rising to 405.

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be messy--snow, sleet, rain with temps in the 30's. We will be heading into the mountains anyway. Stay tuned!

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