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Sandhill Cranes & a Whooper!

Spring break kicked off with a busy Saturday full of odds and ends before we loaded up the car to roadtrip to Grand Island, Nebraska to check out the great sandhill crane migration.

tractor in field as sandhill cranes fly above skyline in central Nebraska

I sadly cannot recall witnessing the migration before in my thirty-some years as a Nebraskan. Thankfully that changed this past weekend!

The weekend weather started off overcast but bright, with sunshine speckled along the drive to central Nebraska. As soon as we arrived near Grand Island we hopped off the Interstate and plotted our path of backroad driving starting north of the Platte

sandhill cranes dance during spring migration in central Nebraska.

River, catching some cranes still feeding in the cornfields before they headed back to the river to settle for evening. I will fully admit to geeking out over the amount of sandhill cranes we saw. Like a kid in a candy store, I was in awe of the beauty of these creatures and mesmerized by their sounds.

sandhill cranes leap and dance during spring migration in central Nebraska

We stayed the night in Grand Island, with my alarm set bright and early to make sure the crew was out the door to catch a sunrise and cranes. I dreamed of the pretty spring Nebraska sunrise speckled with cranes as I have seen posted all over Facebook groups recently.

Unfortunately, that wasn't in the cards for me. I woke up at 5am to hear ice pelting the hotel window. Contemplating letting a snoring kiddo sleep in, I rolled over and slept in a little myself. There would be no sunshine today, only more overcast skies and some foggy drizzle. This photographer was a bit bummed, to say the least!

tree covered dirt road driveway on a foggy morning in central Nebraska

While the weather didn't help me out at all, the fog did set off the backgrounds in a majestically

beautiful way. Camera gear in hand, we headed south of the river for backroads again, realizing our later than planned start meant most of the cranes would be out in the fields again instead of on the river. Despite our delay, the sights of the day were gorgeous!

whooping crane in cornfield during spring migration in Central Nebraska

Besides some hidden gems we found, we stumbled upon a Whooping Crane! Did you know they are one of the most critically endangered birds in the world?! There are only about 600 whooping cranes left in the world. The whooping crane was pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat but through conservation efforts, they are slowly recovering. Talk about a whooper of a sight to see! We watched in amazement along side the dirt road with several other fellow nature photographers. It was great seeing everyone being respectful, as well as also mesmerized, by these birds.

I'm sure the cranes are just another season for those of central Nebraska, but for this nature loving photographer, I will remember this trip for a lifetime. All in all, the weekend was worth it, despite the lack of sunshine. Good laughs were had while quality time with my daughter making memories for a lifetime. We will be back again.

For more information about the Sandhill Crane migration, check out these resources:

Have you viewed the crane migration before? What's a highlight from your trip?

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