Ranger Kathryn's Arches

March 12, 2011

Sandhill cranes, Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:40 am
Tags: , , ,
I stepped out of my vehicle, stretched, and heard an unmistakable sound overhead… a bit like a goose with a stutter. A single sandhill crane was doing a low, lazy fly-over, its long legs dangling behind it so you could never mistake it for a large goose. My pulse sped up. In my whole life, I’ve never seen more than one or two of these imposing birds at a time. Tonight would be different. Tonight I paid my $25 to spend two hours in a blind at the river’s edge to watch The Spectacle at sunset.
This is the Platte River Valley of central Nebraska, and over half a million (!) of these birds use it as a staging ground each spring en route to their breeding grounds in far northern North America. There will be precious little food when they get to the tundra, so their three- to four-week stop fattens them up; leftover corn in farm fields will add 18% to their body weight. At night they descend en masse onto the sand bars of the river, preferring 3-6″ of water to roost in overnight which will be an Early Warning System if a fox or bobcat is on the hunt.
At the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary, permanent blinds enable viewers to be at river’s edge without stressing the birds. As I waited for the group to gather, forty or fifty birds landed in an adjacent field to eat. With my binoculars I could easily see their majestic bearing, the red crown, the bustle over their tail.
The sky was cut by small V’s that rattled, trilled, honked their way to wherever they were going. I couldn’t wait to get to the blind…
(Continued here)
[photo from google images]


  1. I believe MN opened up a season to hunt them last fall. One of these would look Fabulous on my wall…

    Comment by john — March 12, 2011 @ 8:59 am | Reply

    • Quit baiting me, brother.

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — March 12, 2011 @ 9:32 am | Reply

  2. WOW! What an experience! What a photo! What a woman! Love, Ann
    PS My farmer brother has no love for these birds as they eat his corn!

    Comment by Ann Rabie — March 12, 2011 @ 9:32 am | Reply

    • NOT my photo! I didn’t have a lens to get a close-up, so the fine print says this is indeed a Google image photo. (I’ll always say if I didn’t take it.)

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — March 12, 2011 @ 9:35 am | Reply

  3. I didn’t realize how pretty they are? Why would they want to go North??

    Comment by Snow Pogones — March 18, 2011 @ 4:33 pm | Reply

    • To nest in northern Canada, and Alaska!

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — March 25, 2011 @ 11:20 am | Reply

  4. Hey, dear friend! You are really there with the cranes! I am looking forward to reading your blogs. Miss you!

    Comment by kathy lewis — March 18, 2011 @ 7:33 pm | Reply

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