Photo of the Week – March 7, 2013

It’s March, which means the sandhill cranes are back on the Central Platte River.  Every spring, the entire mid-continent population of sandhill cranes (500,000-650,000 birds) comes to the Platte River to spend several weeks fueling up for the rest of their northward migration and breeding season.

Sandhill cranes roosting on the Platte River, just north of The Nature Conservancy's Studnicka tract.  2007 photo.

Sandhill cranes roosting on the Platte River, just north of The Nature Conservancy’s Studnicka tract. 2007 photo.

Interestingly, we seem to have fewer cranes right now (March 7) than we did in mid-February back in 2012.  The vagaries of weather – both here and in the wintering grounds in Texas, New Mexico, and northern Mexico – help drive the timing of migration.  I’m not sure exactly what cues they’re using to make their decisions, but apparently there is less urgency to leave the south this year. 

While the cranes are a little slow to arrive, vast numbers of snow geese, along with other geese and ducks, are making up for them.  The skies are full of birds and their calls, making it pretty nice to work outside (and, conversely, hard to stay inside.)

Spring is coming!