Sandhill Cranes of the Platte River 

A Vanishing Treasure

sunset-Sandhill-Crane.jpeg

NEW TOUR!

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For five weeks each spring, the Platte River valley in south-central Nebraska is home to a symphony of sounds and dancing rituals of ninety percent of the world’s Sandhill cranes. The cranes are in Nebraska for just one reason, to eat heartily and store energy for their migration.  Over 600,000 cranes stop in for this banquet along the Platte River. This is truly one of nature’s most magnificent migration feats.

         

However, the situation with Sandhill crane habitat is not so rosy. Loss and degradation of riverine and wetland ecosystems are the most important threats to Sandhill Crane populations. For the migratory populations, this is of greatest concern in staging and wintering areas. Spring staging areas along the Platte River are of special concern because of their importance to the migratory subspecies and the development pressures facing this region. Approximately 80% of all Sandhill Cranes utilize a 75-mile stretch of the Platte River in spring migration. Elsewhere, small breeding populations can face disproportionate mortality on fall staging areas due to over-hunting. Residential and commercial development pressures facing lands occupied by birds belonging to non-migratory subspecies in Mississippi, Florida, and Cuba also pose significant threats. Expert Sandhill crane experts from Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary the Crane Trust Center and will join us on this educational and awe-inspiring experience. 

Photo Credit: KJAN

Dates: March 16-20, 2022 (Only one departure)

 

Cost: $950 per person, double occupancy

 

DAILY ITINERARY:

Day 1 – March 16:      ARRIVE GRAND ISLAND, NEBRASKA

Group will meet at our hotel in Grand Island, Nebraska.  After relaxing for a while, we will meet for dinner and enjoy a presentation by the Executive Director of the Platte River Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust, Inc.    

 

Day 2 – March 17:      CRANE WATCH! 

Rise early (4:00 A.M) and drive to the Trust facility for the morning observation in a blind designed for Sandhill crane observation. Our expert guide, a professional crane ecologist and professor at the University of Nebraska, will accompany us as we will learn about crane ecology, migration, food and mating habits, threats, and long-term management plans. We will enjoy hot drinks and pastries while observing and identifying numerous bird species and other wildlife of the Platte River basin.

 

During the mid-day, we will enjoy an informal meeting with the Executive Director of the Nebraska Wildlife Federation. They will present what the many impacts water levels, habitat destruction and farmer participation is having on the long-term perpetuation of the Sandhills.

After lunch, we will visit Crane Meadows Nature Center and bird the trails along the river before returning to our hotel for relaxation. Before sunset we will return to the Platte and our specialized blind to watch the evening migration back to the Platte River roosting areas. Our guide will discuss some of the work the Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust along with Nebraska Wildlife are undertaking along the Platte River. We will return to our hotel for dinner and a review of the highlights of the day.

 

Day 3 – March 18:      CRANE WATCH! 

 

Early rise and join Dr. Amy Richert to view and learn more about Sandhill cranes and their incredible ecology. Dr. Richert will present additional information on the migratory trends of the Whooping crane and well as the Sandhill crane. After the Sandhills have exited from the night’s roost, we will drive the Whooper-Watch circuit in search of the elusive and endangered Whooping crane. 

 

After lunch, we will travel back to Grand Island for a multi-media presentation at the Crane Trust Nature Center, focused on the long road back to recovery – the Whooping Crane! Later we will travel to Kearney and Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary for an exception birding treat. Relax in the comfort of the sanctuary and enjoy viewing numerous bird species. We will have dinner in Grand Island.

 

Day 4 – March 19:      PRAIRIE CHICKENS

Today is prairie chicken watch!  Joined by an expert prairie chicken ecologist, visit some prime locations to observe the active prairie chickens trying hard to find a mate. Utilizing one of the blinds to watch the chickens at close range, marvel at the dancing, strutting, and booming of the chicken’s unique mating ritual. As the sun rises, observe thousands of Sandhill cranes flying over us on their way to the corn fields. Later drive through the Rainwater Basin, a diverse waterfowl ecosystem, stopping frequently for viewing opportunities and waterfowl identification. Later, enjoy a social and a farewell dinner and share highlights of the week's activities.

Day 5 - March 20: End of Tour

 

 

INCLUDED:

·  Four nights hotel lodging

·  Use of blinds, presentations and guiding by expert crane ecologists,

·  Hot beverages & pastries during early/late blind usage

·  Educational material on crane ecology

 

NOT INCLUDED:

·  Transportation to/from Grand Island, Nebraska

·  Meals except where mentioned

·  Gratuities for hotel, restaurant, guide services

·  Alcoholic drinks

·  Personal items