Platt Visits the Platte

by Elizabeth Platt

April 4:

The crane’s morning arrival and evening departure were magnificent.  There are an estimated 598,000 there right now!   When we arrived at the Rowe Sanctuary in the morning it was very cold in the blind from which we watched in total silence for 1 1/2 hours.  The cranes took off silently from the river where they had been standing all night.  Over time the river empties and the birds return to the fields where they spend the day eating corn left after the harvest.  Everywhere in the area (near Kearney, Nebraska) there are cranes in the fields as far as the eye can see.

In the evening when the cranes are ‘staging’ – gathering themselves at a certain area from all the fields, they make a tremendous amount of noise, which is both like squawking and murmuring.   At first there seemed only to be a few coming in pairs, then about five birds, then a long string of them, then long strings forming a curved line of birds in flight against the sky.  Little by little they meet up with other groups going in other directions.  We saw groups of thousands silhouetted against the setting sun, swirling around, getting ready to land. Then, we realized that the birds had begun to form a line right across the river.  We watched until the sun was completely gone, and there was no more light on the river.  Only then did we depart.  Still, thousands were still getting ready to fly in.

To see wonderful photos of the cranes, log on to