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Sand Hill Cranes Sighted Over Wakarusa Valley


A recent Lawrence Journal World article about the Baker Wetlands said the following:

Last week, Boyd said the site caused a stir among local bird watchers when a flock of sandhill cranes landed at the lake, a bird that is typically spotted in Douglas County about once a decade.

We happened to be working outside when the flock of cranes flew over.  We live near the Clinton Lake marsh/wetlands, so flocks of birds riding the valley currents overhead are not unusual.   Click here for the sound that caught our attention.

It was a large flock.  This overly enlarged thus fuzzy picture shows just a few.

The Nebraska Game and Parks writes this movement is called a "kettle."

At midday when the sun is shining, look for soaring "kettles" of cranes over the river valley. These groups appear as wisps of smoke from a distance. The birds are testing the thermals and keeping their flight muscles toned for the journey, that lies ahead. Cranes are diurnal or daytime migrants and use thermals to their advantage. They will ride the thermal higher and higher up to an altitude of a couple of thousand feet, then they will glide northward in wavering lines losing altitude as they go until they reach the next thermal, spiraling upwards to repeat the process. This method of migration is energy efficient, more so than the power-flapping flight of other species such as geese. On a good day, cranes can travel up to 500 miles although 200 to 300 miles is more typical. In the late afternoon, they seek a wetland of some type to roost for the night and depart the next morning weather permitting, until they reach their destination.

One year we hope to see the cranes up close in Nebraska's Sand Hills. Anyone made the trip?


riverdrifter 7 years, 5 months ago

I saw a few sandhills near Baldwin City about 10 days ago. There were two small scattered flocks. Later that night I heard them overhead. I think they were blown off course by high west winds. I've seen them around here before but it was years & years ago. I really think they end up here by accident. Never have made the trip to the Grand Island area but friends have and say it's worth it. Quivira NWR & Cheyenne Bottoms are closed due to whooping cranes on hand -I think.

Linda Hanney 7 years, 5 months ago

Riverdrifter, they definitely like to talk/squawk when they fly!

There was a time some years back when the Clinton Wildlife & Parks was closed due to whooping cranes stopping by. Again, they would be off track I am sure.

geekin_topekan 7 years, 5 months ago

I have seen the cranes. You can go onto the gravel farm roads near the Platte River by Grand Island, Ne. and see them hanging out by the tens of thousands in the middle of the plowed under fields.

Made me want to take an umbrella and go "Koochiekoochiekoochiekoochie. . ." while running through the field like Sean Connery in The Last Crusade.

think_about_it 7 years, 5 months ago

hunted them in the past a couple of times. very wary birds but taste as good as any migratory bird. very cool to have a flock of 100 or so come over at the tree tops.

riverdrifter 7 years, 5 months ago

Tonight, just minutes ago, I just saw the first snow geese of the year. A flock of 4 dozen or so, reflected off the lights of town under the clouds. My lab cocked her head and let off a low rumble of a growl.

Linda Hanney 7 years, 5 months ago

My husband said he heard a commotion in the sky when he took the dog out one night this week. Wondering if it was a flock of snows also. Sounds like your Lab is ready to go--Boxers don't have a clue.

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