My wife and I chose to drive out to Steamboat Springs, taking with us a couple from Brazil, Orlando and Cleide Tonin, who have been friends of ours for over a quarter of a century. They are spending a couple of months with us and we’ve been trying to show them some of the highlights of this great country of ours. After 2,500 miles they’ve seen only a small portion of it.
We drove out through IA, NE and WY and returned home through KS and MO. In NE we stayed in Kearney which is the magical gathering place for 80% of the world’s sand hill cranes every spring. People come from all over the world to see these majestic birds on their trek from Alaska and Russia down to TX and Mexico.
While in Kearney, I learned that sandhill cranes are living dinosaurs. Fossils of their bones have been carbon dated back nine million years in the state. Like all cranes, sandhills mate for life. They typically lay only two eggs per year with only one of the chicks surviving the first year. The family of cranes typically spends about three weeks in the Kearney area along the Platte River.
Nebraska and other states have realized that bird watching is the fastest growing spectator sport in the nation and are investing resources to make the visiting bird watchers want to come back to check off birds on their life lists. Near Kearney, the Rowe Sanctuary and Crane Meadows are two excellent facilities for bird watching. Other birds of interest there are eagles, prairie grouse, whooping cranes, bats, hawks and owls.