Nebraska: Million bird flocks
More cranes and geese than you ever thought possible.
Nebraska is a state that gets short shrift. While topography isn’t its strong point, the greatest of American migration flyways passes right through the heart of the state, and the sheer magnitude of bird life that passes through is unrivaled. We will visit two of the most famous Sandhill Crane refuges, the Rowe Sanctuary and Crane Meadows, where the sight of thousands upon thousands of these magnificent birds will take your breath away. While not watching cranes we will sort through the myriad of migrant waterfowl that also use the central flyway, and watch the antics of Prairie-chickens performing their yearly ritual dances. The variety of unique spectacles on this tour will surely be among your fondest memories of the spring.
Day 1: Omaha. Arrival on Continental flights co2916 or co2522 at 11.18am or 12.20pm, or before. After arrival in Omaha and meeting up with your guide we will check out some wetlands around Nebraska’s largest city. Duck migration will just have started, and between them and wintering species a good selection of waterfowl will allow us to study up on duck identification before heading to the Platte River. A quick check of some cattail marshes may provide a rail or two, and if we have some time we will scan the Missouri River for some wintering gulls that could include Thayer’s or Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
Day 2: Omaha to Grand Isle. The next morning we will bird the riparian corridor of the Missouri River (which, despite what you may have learned in your school books, is the longest river in North America), some of the finest riparian forest in the northern Midwest. At the Fontanelle Nature Center wintering sparrows and other passerines could include the huge Harris’s and Fox Sparrows, a variety of woodpecker species, and Northern Bobwhite. During the afternoon we will transfer to Grand Isle, our base for the next few days in the Platte River Valley.
Day 3: Grand Isle area. Our first day in one of North America’s premier flyways will be spent at the Rowe Sanctuary. An early morning start will bring you to a blind where the spectacle of clouds of these magnificent birds and their ethereal calls will surely take your breath away. In the afternoon the migration display continues in the form of countless Snow Geese and other duck species
Day 4: Grand Isle area. Birding in central Nebraska includes more than cranes and ducks; an early morning start will bring us to a lek of Greater Prairie-Chickens and Sharp-tailed Grouse. Excellent views of these “thunder-cluckers” dancing and bubbling their way into the heart of female grouse should make for an unbeatable start to the day. In the afternoon we will return to the Rowe Sanctuary to gaze through the myriad of migrant waterfowl again, and see the evening crane flight as they come in to roost for the night.
Day 5: Grand Isle to Omaha. The final morning of the tour we will go to another famous crane viewing area, the Crane Meadows Nature Center. After getting our fill of the cranes we will venture grasslands to look for some wintering Lapland Longspurs and raptors and perhaps an early returning Burrowing Owl, as well as some unique mammalian wildlife like Pronghorn (called Antelope but actually more closely related to Goats), and the antics of Black-tailed Prairie-Dogs. A roadside encounter with some grouse or prairie-chickens can’t be ruled out either. We will drive back to Omaha in the afternoon for your evening flight home on flight co 2262 at 6.00pm