Birders and photographers know Bosque del Apache as the place to go for sandhill cranes. What many do not know is that each spring, approximately 500,000 sandhill cranes use a tiny 60 mile stretch of the Platte River in south-central Nebraska to feed and rest during their annual spring migration.
Although I’ll be making my first trip to Bosque del Apache to shoot the cranes in two weeks, I’ve photographed sandhill cranes in Nebraska for over twenty years.
Between March 1 and April 15, up to a half million sandhill cranes take a break in Nebrasaka for feeding and resting before they resume their trek to northern breading grounds.
Birders and photographers from all over the world converge on central Nebraska to experience one of the great migrations of the animal kingdom. I have witnessed no greater spectacle than a massive lift-off a hundred thousand cranes at sunrise.
It is not only a visual experience but audible as well. It takes your breath away.
Sandhill cranes are celebrated and protected in Nebraska. Each year the cities of Kearney and Grand Island host thousands of birders and photographers who make a huge positive economic impact to region. Several annual festivals sponsored by local and national organizations benefit the local economy while they create awareness and encourage conservation of these magnificent birds.
I’m really looking forward to photographing these intriguing birds in the desert venue in a few weeks. I’m hoping my Nebraska crane experience has prepared me to take advantage of my time in New Mexico. If I’m not mistaken, the cranes that come through Nebraska are Lesser Sandhill Cranes and the ones that I will see in New Mexico are Greater Sandhill Cranes that use a different flyway for their annual northern migration (please enlighten and correct me if I’ve got this wrong). I’m eager to find out if their behaviors are similar.
The photos in this post were all taken along the Platte River between Kearney and Grand Island, Nebraska. Upon my return from Bosque, I’ll follow up with some more images from that region.
Frank Comisar is a nature photographer who splits his time between his native Nebraska and Southwest Colorado. Frank provides expert guiding and private photography workshops focusing on wildlife and landscape photography customized to the needs and preferences of his students. Contact Frank via Scenic Aperture for more information.