Part One: Cranes and The River
|Public domain image|
It's often said that troubles come in threes. But being an optimist, I believe that good things can also come in threes.
On my birding bucket list, in slot number three, is a trip to Nebraska to view a birding spectacle. Every year during the spring migration, more than half a million sandhills and a less than three hundred whooping cranes claim the Platte River as their stopover to feed and fatten up before they continue their journey. From what I've heard, the event is unforgettable. Thousands of gigantic birds fluttering in at sunset to claim a few inches of sandbar in which to roost, and as the sun comes up the next morning, flushing back into the sky and out into the fields to gorge on corn. To a non-birder, the event may seem pedestrian, but to a cranic (term referring to birders who are fanatical over sandhill and whooping cranes), it ranks up there with an experience of a lifetime.
This trip has been on my list for more than fifteen years. What was keeping me, I wasn't sure. It doesn't really matter; what's important are the three nudges I received recently.
While birding on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast last December, I met a woman who was planning a trip to Bosque del Apache in New Mexico, another migratory stopover for cranes. Her excitement was contagious and if it wasn't for previous obligations, I would have accepted her invitation, thrown my gear in the back of her truck, and gone with her. Nevertheless, the seed had been planted.
Then a couple of weeks ago, a friend gave me a book she'd found in the library bookstore. She knew I was a cranic. The book, The Cry of the Sandhill Crane, tells the history of sandhills' evolution and the species link with Nebraska's Platte River. It describes the crane gathering on the Platte in panoramic detail. The next day, the January issue of Audubon came in the mail with the feature story, "Lords of the Dance," written by Jonathan Rosen. Rosen tells about his trip to Audubon's Rowe Sanctuary near Kearney, Nebraska to view the sandhills as they settle along the river to roost for the night. With all senses alert Rosen describes, "The noise surprises me, as if I'd imagined migration as a silent movie, a cacophony of loud croaks and cries."
Imagining the sights and sounds of that great crane ruckus still echoes in my head. Okay, I can take a hint. In this case three hints. Now on my birding bucket list next to "trip to Nebraska to see the cranes on their migration," I've added "spring 2014."
Stayed tuned for Part Two of Cranes and the River next Sunday.
Labels: audubon, birding Nebraska, migration, Platte River, sandhill cranes, whooping cranes, wildlife