Sandhill Cranes

Spring Birding Adventures

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Spring Birding Adventures

2021 Crane Tour Information Coming Soon!

Each spring the most incredible migration event in the world passes through the North Platte, Nebraska area. More than 200,000 Sandhill Cranes will spend about six weeks in the North Platte River valley fortifying themselves for the nesting period to come. While they are here, they will engage in beautiful courtship and pair-bonding behaviors.

Courting cranes are magnificent as they stretch their wings, pump their heads, bow, and leap into the air in a graceful and energetic dance. Parents will dance with their chicks for the entire first year of their lives. Juvenile Sandhill Cranes will use the complex dance steps they learned to select a mate when they are two to five years old. They will mate for life, though continue to show their affection to their mates each spring with their dancing prowess. The energies and, dare we say emotions, released during the dancing rituals are essential to successful breeding.

These graceful, exuberant rituals can best be observed while the Sandhill Cranes are in the feeding and loafing grounds, which are the meadows and crop fields within five miles from the river.

Sandhill Crane Tours

To aid you in your experience of the Sandhill Crane migration, Dusty Trails LLC, your outdoor specialists in North Platte has developed tours during the most active time of the day for the Sandhill Crane courtship behaviors.

All tours include a round trip through the North Platte River valley between North Platte and Hershey. The tour will linger along the rural roads wherever there are large groups of Sandhill Cranes so that you can observe, video and photograph as much as you would like.

While on the tour, you will be treated to information about the Sandhill Cranes, their migration and behaviors you may observe in the fields.

The transportation for the tours is a converted school bus that will be warm and dry and afford elevated visibility for Crane viewing. You will be supplied with a welcome bag including a snack and a water bottle.

Some binoculars will be available to share, but please feel free to bring along your own to enhance your experience, as well as whatever photography and videography equipment you would like.

Private Guided Viewing Blind

 

Dusty Trails LLC, your outdoor specialists in North Platte has partnered with a landowner along the North Platte River to place a Crane viewing blind near a large roost.

All tours are accompanied by an experienced guide. The morning blind tours will involve walking into the blind in complete darkness and remaining in the blind until all of the birds have left the river, approximately 8:30 or 9:00am. The evening blind tours will involve walking into the blind before sunset and remaining in the blind until full dark, approximately 9:00 or 9:30pm.

Some binoculars will be available to share, but please feel free to bring along your own to enhance your experience, as well as whatever photography and videography equipment you would like. Please note, unless you purchase a separate experience in a photography blind, tripods are not allowed. No flash photography is allowed, and no flashlights are allowed. Your guide will lead you to and from the blind.

Though the viewing blind is enclosed and heated, it will still be very chilly. Warm, seasonally appropriate clothing is a must. Hats, gloves, thermal underwear, heavy coats and outerwear and sturdy boots are recommended.

Prairie Chicken Dance Tours

 

In the spring the hearts of the Nebraska Greater Prairie Chickens turn toward love. To successfully attract a female mate, the male Prairie Chickens must impress them with their dancing prowess. Males will gather in large numbers on dancing grounds known as leks. They will cackle, jump and stomp their feet, sometimes scuffling with a rival. Then they will scrunch down and inflate their bright orange neck sacks and emit an eerie booming sound.

The ladies on the other hand will observe the shenanigans circumspectly, examining the prospects with a critical eye. However, if they see something they like, they may come forward for a brief, flurried assignation.

Dusty Trails will host an excursion to a large and busy Prairie Chicken lek located south of Sutherland.  Visitors will be transported to the lek by bus or van, a trip of about an hour. Coffee, juice and breakfast pastries will be provided on the bus. Feel free to bring your own refreshments, but please, no alcoholic beverages.

Though the viewing blind at the lek is enclosed, it will still be very chilly. Warm, seasonally appropriate clothing is a must. Hats, gloves, thermal underwear, heavy coats and outerwear and sturdy boots are recommended.

There will be some binoculars to share, but feel free to bring some to enhance your viewing experience, as well as whatever video and photography equipment you would like. Flash photography and additional lighting is strictly prohibited.

There will be two small (1-2 person) photographer blinds available at the lek which will provide a ground-level view of the action. Please note: Once in the unheated photographer blind, you will not be able to exit until your guide comes to get you when the Prairie Chickens have departed the lek. You will not be able to use the restroom during this time.

Moonlight Horseback Excursion

 

An incredible dawn horseback excursion to the Prairie Chicken lek may be scheduled for three days surrounding the full moon on March 28, 2021. No previous horseback experience necessary!

If all goes as planned, the tour will depart at 3:00am from the North Platte Visitors Bureau at 101 Halligan Drive for the Barner Ranch north of Wallace, a drive of approximately an hour. The Visitors Bureau is closed at this time. However, there is a 24-hour service station next door if you need to use the rest room or purchase supplies for the trip. Please plan to be ready to board the bus ten minutes prior to departure. From there you will mount up and enjoy an incredible moonlight horseback ride about five miles to the lek where you will dismount and make your way to the blind.

You will be treated to the beautiful night sky as the Milky Way stretches from horizon to horizon, dimmed only by the brilliance of the full moon. Light pollution is minimal, with only faint glows on the horizon marking far away towns. As dawn approaches, the prairie awakens. Crickets will be heard chirping in the grass, Meadowlarks will begin their full throated calls. Families of Coyotes will begin to sing, teaching the pups born earlier in the spring to greet the coming day. And then a low thrumming will begin reverberating through the air. The earliest risers among the Greater Prairie Chickens are getting warmed up for their performances.

Dusty Trails LLC is North Platte’s premiere outdoor outfitter. Each year hundreds of visitors enjoy trail rides through the Buffalo Bill State Recreation Area hosted by Dusty Trails. Girl Scouts from across the state have enjoyed Dusty Trails Trail Rides in areas such as the Halsey National Forest and along Nebraska’s Cowboy Trail. Dusty Barner’s expertise, the professionalism of his wranglers, and his experienced, gentle horses will make even the most timid rider feel comfortable.

Please dress warmly. Hats, gloves, thermal underwear, heavy outerwear and sturdy boots will be necessary. Because everything must be packed in on horseback, only minimal camera equipment is appropriate on this excursion.

Coffee, juice and breakfast pastries will be served on the bus. Bottled water will be provided at the lek. On the excursion you’ll build up an appetite, so you’ll be hosted to a hearty breakfast at the Barner Ranch following your adventure. The tour will be back in North Platte at about noon.

Click here to download the 2020 Complete Brochure.