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.