Friday, February 29, 2008

Sandhill Cranes and Bluebirds!


Whoever heard of a birding festival focused on both sandhill cranes and bluebirds?

Um. Some friends of ours in Nebraska who LOVE bluebirds and who also happen to live near the world's largest spring gathering of sandhill cranes.

When Steve and Cheryl Eno contacted us way back in 2006 about speaking in Nebraska for a festival in the spring of 2008, we said "sure!" Then I asked Steve what kind of festival it was going to be? We'd been out to other events the Enos had been involved in, namely a 2003 North American Bluebird Association convention held in Kearney. It was well-run and well-attended and lots of fun.

"Oh you know, there'll be some bluebird stuff and we were thinking about including the cranes, too!"

I remember thinking "Gee those are some pretty different birds and I'm not sure you'll attract a lot of the normal birding festival goers with them." There are other events devoted to sandhill cranes after all. And bluebird enthusiasts are a breed apart, hence the name Bluebird Nation.

But I should have known those Nebraskans would pull it off. I mean I've seen Steve and Cheryl's house, which Steve built out of bricks, and farm, which is devoted to animals of many varieties. The basement rooms are given over to bluebird houses that people have sent to Steve for review and potential approval as suitable for bluebirds to nest in. And the barn workshop is, well, let's just say if Steve lined up every bluebird house he's built and given away through the thriving Bluebirds Across Nebraska organization, they'd likely stretch across the whole Conhusker State. In fact they probably nearly already do.

This is NOT your normal birding festival. It's better. It's more down-home and relaxed.
You should come! It's right around the corner: March 6 to 9, 2008, in charming Kearney, Nebraska.

Here are three reasons to come to Kearney for the Sandhill Crane & Bluebird Festival next week:

1. If you have never seen several hundred thousand sandhill cranes take off from a river against a pink dawn sky, you are missing out on one of birding's most amazing experiences.

2. Al Batt will be speaking. Al is both the funniest and the tallest man I know. His stories make me laugh until my ribs ache and the runzas come out of my nose.

3. You will have the chance to eat a local food item called a runza.

4. OK I lied. I've got more than three reasons. There are prairie chicken leks nearby.

5. If you have a question about bluebirds (and who doesn't) several of the continent's Bluebird Oracles will be at this event.

6. Live music every day.

7. Live auction of truly one-of-a-kind items, some of which defy labeling.

8. You will learn how to pronounce Kearney.

9. Did I mention runzas?

10. The cranes and bluebirds will miss you.

I hope to see you there.

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