Almost TOO good to be true! (COMMON CRANE)

So what does one do when they find their target bird in Des Moines, Iowa with time to spare? Drive six hours west to Kearney, Nebraska….the Sandhill Crane capital – one of the oldest and largest migrations in the world. More than 600,000 of these majestic birds, 80% of the world’s crane population, congregate along an 80 mile stretch of the Platte River in March, to fatten up on waste grain in the empty cornfields in preparation for the journey to their Arctic breeding grounds. What are the chances I was going to find the ONE Common Crane (code 4), a Eurasian species, which was reported here two days ago?

The below video taken this morning gives you an idea of the masses of Sandhills frequenting the area, as well as the minuscule chances I had of locating the wayward Common Crane. My message at the end of the video is for my granddaughter, nicknamed “Schmooookie”:)


But with the assistance of my new birding friend Dave Cunningham whom I met earlier today, my chances were greatly improved. Dave was connected to a couple of hot-shot Nebraskan birders (Doug and Bonnie). Despite the odds, Doug was able to locate the bird in a farmer’s field this afternoon amongst thousands of similarly-sized Sandhills. Doug alerted Dave who called me.

Upon arriving at THE spot, the others let me have scope views. I could identify the bird, barely. But what about a photo for this blog? My digiscoping skills are marginal. Non-existent actually. I have been in this position before. I suggested that they keep an eye on the bird while I try to meet the landowner and garner permission to walk in his fields for a better view and photograph.

Wyatt turned out to be a lovely fellow. I called Dave and five minutes later the gang descended on Wyatt’s property. Wyatt’s eight year old son Lucas led the way on his ATV to a much closer viewing spot.

The black face and neck are the Common Crane’s distinguishing field marks. Lifer #790! THANK YOU to my new Nebraskan birding buddies. I think I’ll have a beer.

About George C. Wood

A birder since age ten, but not necessarily an avid "lister", I am closing in on 700 (*800!) species seen in North America.....hoping to capture each sighting with my camera.
This entry was posted in Quest for 700 (*800!). Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Almost TOO good to be true! (COMMON CRANE)

  1. joek49 says:

    A well earned beer, George! Code 4! Huge congrats…..

  2. joek49 says:

    The video is fantastic —

  3. Joe Weisbord says:

    I think you’re good for at least two beers. I’ll buy. I just heard about the Common Crane sightings on the ABA podcast this afternoon. So cool! Congrats!!

  4. 🪐 says:

    Sent from myPhone


  5. Chris Coss says:

    2 lifers in less than 24 hours when you already have 788, quite an impressive achievement! Congratulations George!

  6. Jessica Cone Coss says:

    Congratulations George! What a spectacular couple of days you’ve had. Loved the video.

  7. Norman Liedtke says:

    George… I’m impressed with Your tenacity, joy in birding, and ingenuity. TY for sharing

  8. Bob says:

    Thx for sharing. It’s a cool site and sound. I witnessed a smaller version near Beaver Oklahoma awhile back. One might wonder what took me there-quail shtg by horseback! Boles

  9. Julia Foster says:

    Can’t believe you (or Doug) found that bird in the crowd!

  10. klem218 says:

    Thanks, as ever, so much for sharing George. Brought back great memories when the Wilson society had its annual meeting in Kearney, now more than a few years ago. What I recall vividly was a sign as you exited the I-80 that read something like Kearney, Nebraska 1167 miles from New York to Kearney and 1167 miles from Kearney to San Francisco; talk about being in the midwest and exactly in the middle of the country. The society met about this time of the year when you visited, and the cranes were spectacular, as were the Snow Geese, but as a special sighting for me I remember the terrific look I enjoyed of a Harlan’s Red-tail. Always enjoy your posts, and recall you, also, as a new friend when we met at a modest gathering in a Philadelphia suburb. My continued best to you, your family, and all those you all care about, Dan (D. Klem, Jr., the bird-window guy)

    • Dan! Of course I remember you. Flattered you read and commented. Way way back we did a Xmas bird count with my great friend Jay Pitocchelli. More recently, Mandy Slattery gathered us in Ardmore, Pa. Your work is soooo important and thankfully gathering more momentum every day. THANK YOU! Stay well. GCW

  11. Andrew Mozino says:

    Sent from my iPhone


  12. Andrew Mozino says:

    Some of the birds were in H 75. I read about them.

    Sent from my iPhone


  13. Scott Tuttle says:

    Congratulations on #790. Great to have such an upbeat message ! Looking forward to hearing about your next 10.

  14. Rocky Schnaars says:

    Your adventures always bring a big smile to my face. Thank you so much for sharing these tales with us!!!


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