Imagine a 1/4 mile hike on a concrete paved, wide trail, in the dark, but with enough moonlight to see the way. As we approached the Platte River we could hear the cranes but not see them. As the sky began to brighten slightly the birds began to stir. We waited on an old railway bridge (now a walking and biking path) with others here for the spectacle. As the sky got lighter more people showed up. The birds began to rise in clouds: first in fifties, then hundreds, then uncountable thousands. Their song was louder with each group. It was marvelous! As the sun got brighter, a mist formed over the edges of the river. The birds continued to rise. One photographer said the birds on one sandbar-like area usually departed early. We decided they were teenagers and sleeping in today.
This was our first sunrise on the Platte River for the Sandhill Crane Migration, the largest Sandhill migration in the world. This migration map from iBird show their migration ranges.
The day we were there they broke their record for birds in the area. A plane flies over and calculates the total population. There were over 650,000 birds.
At night the birds rest in huge groups in the shallow waters of the Platte River on sand bars. During the day the cranes glean the corn fields. I started calling them Ruth and Naomi. They are difficult to photograph up close as they are extremely skittish. So my photos do not include close-ups.
What an amazing spectacle! The big snow storm closed the area a few days after we left. We were fortunate to have blue skies and warm weather.