Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sky Full of Goose

Saturday, March 8, Kearney, Nebraska. Care to guess at how many species are in this photo?

I've seen some skies full of birds in my lifetime of birding, but I'm not sure I've EVER seen a sky quite as full as this one.

East of Kearney, Nebraska, near the famed Platte River migratory corridor for waterfowl and sandhill cranes, we came upon a gravel quarry absolutely filled with geese. The birds were resting on the water and on the islands between the quarry ponds, literally covering the surface. The noise of all those birds calling was the very definition of ear-splitting.

We had no idea how to estimate the number of birds present, but it seemed like several hundred thousand—and perhaps more than half a million.

Mixed goose flock containing Canadas, cackling, snow, Ross', and greater white-fronted geese.

We went back the next day and the flocks had almost entirely moved on to some other place. Ephemeral spectacle.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Giant Things of Nebraska

Donut shops seem to have more than their fair share of cool roadside signs. These signs often incorporate Giant Things. It's been a while since I've shared a Giant Thing sighting here in BOTB, but it's not from a lack of desire on my part. I simply have not been fortunate enough to see the usual plethora of Giant Things from which I would pluck only the most fascinating and succulent.

This giant rooster has a lot to recommend it. It's really big. It's a cool rendition of a cocksure bird. It's crowing to let you know that the donuts are hot and fresh. AND it's announcing the recent birth of somebody's l'il rooster.

Next time you're in Kearney, Nebraska looking for a cup of joe and a sack of hot donut holes, check out Daylight Donuts right on the main drag. I photographed E. Clair Cruller, the Daylight Donut Rooster earlier this month in Kearney. It was the peak of crane and goose migration and the sky was full of birds, so I'm surprised there aren't V's of geese in the blue sky behind E. Clair.

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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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