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A Day Late … Again … Sort Of

Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River

I added yet another case of “should’ve been here yesterday” to my bourgeoning portfolio last week.

Mary Harner from the Crane Trust called to let me know that a whooping crane had been spending the night in front of one of their viewing blinds on the Platte River south of Alda. I’m hoping to get lucky and have a chance to photograph one of those rare birds that has been fitted with a GPS transmitter for a story I’m following on that international study.

The bird had been there two nights, but not the night before they called. It might come back, Mary said, and the blind is open if you want it. I boogied down there for the evening flight and stayed for the morning, but the bird had apparently found a place more to its liking upriver.

But it’s never a wasted trip when the cranes are here. Add 1 billion snow geese … well it seemed like a billion anyway … there were plenty of photos to be had. The spectacle that is the Spring Migration in Nebraska never gets old.

If you haven’t been by Mormon Island SRA at the Grand Island interchange to see the snow geese there, it’s worth going. For the past week or two, there have been up to 75,000 or so there, an impressive sight accessible to anyone.

I’ll be back in the weeks to come. I’m not holding my breath for my whooper photo. While the birds have transmitters on them, they don’t give instant locations, only a few locations a day, uploaded to a satellite every few days. And even if they did, it’s not something the study partners would share. Disturbing a species as rare as a whooper isn’t be cool. But would taking the chance of doing so for educational purposes such as my story be? That’s a million dollar question. As a photographer and hunter, I know how to sneak up on stuff and know when doing so might be possible and when I shouldn’t even try. But sometimes I try and fail. There are already plenty of birders and photographers who hop out of their cars and walk into a cornfield to try to get close to the birds and fail. That kind of disturbance might not be a big deal when you’re talking snow geese or sandhills, but when there are only 300 migratory whoopers in the world, it’s something officials don’t want to see. So don’t try it.

So hopefully a whooper will take a liking to a spot in front of an established blind, the phone will ring, and I’ll head back west. Better yet, I’ll already be there, hanging out with the birds.

See You out There.

-Eric Fowler

Sunrise on the Platte with skies filled with cranes and snow geese.
A swarm of Snow Geese at Mormon Island SRA at Grand Island
Snow geese at Mormon Island SRA at Grand Island

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About eric fowler

NEBRASKAland Regional Editor Eric Fowler was born in Hastings, graduated from Ogallala High School in 1988 and earned his Bachelor’s degree from Chadron State College in 1993. After six years as a writer and photographer with newspapers in Chadron and Scottsbluff, he joined the Commission in 1998 as Publications Editor and has been a member of the NEBRASKAland staff since 2001. He has won numerous awards from the Association for Conservation Information for writing and photography featured in the magazine. Fowler enjoys spending time outdoors with friends and family, including his son. His passions include hunting waterfowl, upland and big game, fishing, especially in the Sandhills, hiking, camping and watching the sun rise or set anywhere in Nebraska.

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