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Crane Weekend Report

April 01, 2015 11:14 PM | Tyler Harms (Administrator)

Thirteen young birders ranging in age from 8 to 16 along with 20 parents/grandparents/friends boarded our charter bus in Iowa City and Des Moines for the 430 mile trek west to central Nebraska.  Near Grand Island we stopped to stretch our legs (but mainly to go birding!) at Mormon Island Recreation Area ( .  The warm sun and blue skies made this a very pleasant stop but even better were the 15 species of waterfowl including a single Eared Grebe.  A flock of 30 Sandhill Cranes flew overhead--a tiny preview of tomorrow's adventures!  Here is a link to our checklist for this location
( .  We arrived in Kearney right on time and were greeted at our hotel by the Kearney Visitor and Convention Bureau.  Everyone on our trip received a welcome bag filled with information and goodies including lens cleaning cloths to hang on our binocular straps.   Dinner at Ruby Tuesday was excellent and one of our young birders celebrated his birthday with a pretty impressive ice cream dish! We arranged with the Microtel to put our breakfast at 4:30 a.m. and by 5:15 we were back on the bus for the short trip to Rowe Audubon Sanctuary. (   After an orientation and video, we were led out to our reserved viewing blinds by volunteer leaders.  Since our blinds were right on the river above the nighttime crane roosts, we were completely silent, unlike the cranes!  Even as we
walked to the blinds, we could hear seemingly thousands of cranes bugling and sounding off with their contact calls. As the morning slowly grew light, we could begin to seeing a mass of cranes resting on the sandbars.  We spent the next two hours marveling at one of North America's last great migration spectacles!  As the light grew, so did the number of cranes!  Cranes as far as the eye could see.  Even dense clouds of crane flocks on the horizon.  It was truly spectacular!  After returning to the headquarters, we managed to gather together for a group photo.  And in with the blackbird and starling flock at the headquarters feeder, we enjoyed great looks at as many as four Yellow-headed Blackbirds.  Here is our checklist for Rowe Sanctuary
(  On our way back to Iowa, we spent several hours at Desoto National Wildlife Refuge ( north of Omaha/Council Bluffs.  Tom Cox, project leader for the refuge, took time out of his busy day to narrate a very interesting bus tour of the refuge and we learned about the evolution of habitat and wildlife management at Desoto.  While we were watching a new Bald Eagle nest that Tom pointed out, one of the adult eagles cruised in a went to the nest. Here are our checklists for the road tour around Desoto ( and our time at the visitors center ( . Lots of happy birders on the way home!  And a big Iowa Young Birders thank you to:
* CIT Signature Transportation for their excellent bus service (our driver, Paul, was awesome)
* Ross Silcock and Bill Scheible for their great volunteer leadership
* All the parents, grandparents, and friends of young birders who made this trip possible
* Our 13 young birders whose energy and enthusiasm made this trip a lot of fun
* Walt Wagner-Hecht for coordinating our eBird checklists
* Rowe Audubon Sanctuary for their work in preserving this critical habitat and sharing it with visitors
* Tom Cox and Desoto National Wildlife Refuge for hosting our visit and their work with habitat restoration

And our trip sponsors: Gold Level:  Eagle Optics, Sharon & Dick Stillwell, and Quad City Audubon Silver Level:  Kearney Visitors Bureau, Loess Hills Audubon,  Tallgrass Prairie Audubon

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