29 March 2010

Protecting an Ancient Pathway

More on the Sandhill Cranes

The Sandhills are the most abundant crane species in the world
and one of the oldest birds with a fossil record
dating back over 2 million years ago.

Sunrise on the Platte

The Platte River is the important fueling stop 
for the migrating cranes of the Central Flyway.
The River is broad and shallow with many sandbars that 
the cranes roost on during night.  Formed in the Rockies, the 
Platte flows east to the Missouri River.  During the past 70 years 
much of the Platte's water flow has diminished due to irrigation needs.
Strong flows in the spring that scour the sandbars clean of vegetation
are important to the cranes.  Now periodic restoration work
has to be conducted to keep the habitat favorable for the cranes.

During the day, the cranes are scattered about eating in farm fields,
gaining body weight for their journey into Canada, Alaska and even into Siberia.

An estimated 90,000 people come each spring to witness 
the migration bringing an economic benefit to the surrounding areas.
An abandoned rail bed bridge is a prime vantage point to 
watch the cranes arrive at sunset.

Sunset from the bridge

26 March 2010

Fine Art Friday

Sunset, Platte River, Nebraska 2007

23 March 2010

Celebrating Cranes

At this time of year over a half million sandhill cranes congregate 
on the Platte River in Nebraska on their migration northward.  
This is truly one of the great bird migrations in North America.

Due to the hourglass nature of their migration pattern, the cranes
end up concentrating in central Nebraska during the month of March 

allowing for fantastic viewing opportunities of this large flock.

Dawn on the Platte River

The cranes roost overnight on the gravel bars in the 
Platte River.  This provides them protection
from predators, mainly coyotes.  
During the day they fly out to nearby farm fields 
to feed on waste corn leftover from last year's harvest.

Sunrise in the blind

There are various blinds set up along the river in which 
to view and photograph the cranes without disturbing them.  
Observers must enter the blinds before sunrise or in the early evening 
before the cranes return to the river to avoid spooking them.

Sandhill cranes leaving the river in the morning to feed in nearby fields

13 March 2010

Setting Up Shop

 The red-shouldered hawk arrives to set up territory 
in east central Minnesota around the first of March. 
Likely to be found in forested areas near wetlands,
this hawk is fairly common.


 Red-shouldered hawks catch a fair amount of their dinners
 near the wetlands, especially snakes.
They will start nest-building by the middle of April.

12 March 2010

Fine Art Friday

Grave, New Mexico 2003

02 March 2010

Coming out of "Hibernation"

A Big Yawn

With the days getting warmer and Lily's cub getting bigger, 
there is more to view on the bear den cam.
The researchers installed a new microphone so 
the sound is vastly improved.
Lily did not mind the temporary human intrusion into her den space
in order to swap out the equipment.
The cub, now named Hope, should be opening 
her eyes any day now.
This web cam has shown that a mother bear really does not
hibernate but instead sleeps between episodes of caring for 
the rather demanding cub.
The only thing that "hibernates" is her ability to eat
and the fact that she cannot leave her den.