Platte River Sandhill Cranes

Every year more then 500,000 cranes stop along the Platte River in central Nebraska en route to their breeding grounds across northern Canada, Alaska and Chukotka. It is an epic migration – one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in North America – and one that I hadn’t ever witnessed. I made my way to Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary with hopes of capturing some iconic images and putting together a nice atmospheric video that would capture the scene. But I quickly discovered a few things:

- That cranes don’t always behave as predictably as one would want them too (a typical theme with wildlife but not one I had necessarily expected here).
- That there is no way to adequately convey the scale and energy of the crane migration spectacle in video or stills in the time I had allotted.
- And that it just might not be possible to convey it period. It is one of those things that you can’t properly appreciate without experiencing it.

The main problem was that the birds, hundreds of thousands of them, were arriving and departing from their roost on the sand bars of the wide, braided Platte after sunset and before sunrise. Perhaps because of the unseasonably cool weather (twenties down to single digits and windy) the birds were especially hungry and needed to be in the surrounding corn fields feeding as many hours of the day as they could. This meant I had little to no light to work with and my visit was relatively unsuccessful on the filming front.

Luckily I brought along a pair of Sennheiser microphones, set them up to record MS stereo and was able to capture a bit of what I heard as I slept along the banks of the Platte. Watching wave after wave of sillouhetted cranes arrive in the night was one of the most remarkable events I have ever experienced. I don’t have much to show but here is a bit of what it sounded like. Enjoy. And go see it for yourself!





Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) roosting in the Platte River during their northward spring migration. Central Nebraska. March. (Gerrit Vyn)
Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) roosting in the Platte River during their northward spring migration. Central Nebraska. March. (Gerrit Vyn)


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