January 2017 is almost behind us in the rear view mirror. Closer and closer to Spring we are coming. I am beginning to shake off the lethargy of winter and its grey, cold days and dream of new, young green sprouts poking up from newly turned earth. Green buds on the trees and the early flowers; tulips, crocus, daffodils. The Sandhill cranes and snow geese will be circling overhead their distinctive cries filling the skies as they make their way home northbound.
The Crane Center near Alda, Nebraska is just a very short way from Nebraska Highway 2 as it passes through Grand Island, Nebraska. The Center offers early morning and early evening viewing but you need to reserve a place soon as they sell out quickly. The experience of the thousands of cranes in the Platte River and flying overhead is something that will stir your inner soul and will leave your spirit forever changed. Find it on the internet here: https://cranetrust.org.
Early spring in the central Platte river valley brings birds, hundreds of thousands of birds. Coming to see this mass abundance of birds are visitors from all around the world. The big draw are the Sandhill Cranes and the Whooping Cranes. The Sandhill Cranes are usually more easily found than their taller, white brothers, the Whoopers.
This early Spring weekend Murphy, my nebraskahighway2.com traveling companion, and I set out to watch the spectacle of the cranes leaving the river to move out to the cornfields to eat.
To make things more interesting, it was the weekend that time SPRINGS forward. Time doesn’t actually change but our clocks do. Or should. Do I set the clock forward before going to bed or after I get up in the morning. Would thisclock change interfere with my sleeping pattern over the night? I opted to leave the clock alone and determined when I wanted to be at the river according to when the sun would rise and the cranes would begin to move. I chose to ignore the clock/time thing and move according to the sun.
Sunday mornings are usually quiet and few if any others are on the roads at sunrise. This was true in town but once we arrived at the river park with its viewing bridge we found a small population with cameras, binoculars and cups of hot coffee. Being as there were too many vehicles to park close to the river we found a parking place further away from the river but the birds flying overhead had no concerns about parking places. In the early morning dim light the noise was almost deafening of honking geese and chortling cranes. The waning full moon lit up the western sky and illuminated groups of birds flying across it.
We traveled out to surrounding fields only to find them empty of corn and cranes. The rising sun warmed up the sky and clouds into pinks and golds. And overhead the birds were waking up.