Pelicansphoto by Julie Geiser, NebraskaLand magazine

Witness the annual spring migration

March 2016.  The stage is set and the curtain rises for the annual spring migration.

Place:   The hour glass trail in central Nebraska.Enter your content for the tooltip

Players:  Sandhill cranes, pelicans, prairie chickens and grouse play their dramas before audiences of their own species and onlookers of the human sort.

Please join us.  Find your invitation and schedule of events at the websites below.

Sandhill Crane viewing

Sandhill Cranes
photo by Don Brockmeier

Reserve your seat in a viewing blind for a close-up view with surround sound at one of the world’s most dramatic migrations.

The Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary lies right in the heart of a critical spring staging area for migrating Sandhill Cranes.  Come experience one of the last great wildlife migrations on the planet

The 46th annual Audubon’s Nebraska Crane Festival

March 17-20, 2016 – Kearney, Neb.
On-line registration is now open. Please go to the festival Website:

Owned and managed by the Crane Trust, this is the largest remaining wet meadow along the Platte River. This 2,500-acre preserve contains an extensive area of sedge meadows along with native tallgrass prairie surrounded by channels of the Platte River. This was the first Platte Valley crane sanctuary to be established. Access is by permission only.

More than 70,000 Sandhill Cranes have been seen foraging together on its pristine wet meadows and as many as 80,000 cranes roost along its river shorelines during peak usage. More than 220 bird species have been reported here. Good numbers of Upland Sandpipers, Bobolinks, Sedge Wrens, Dickcissels and Grasshopper Sparrows nest from May until August. Prairie Falcons, Short-eared Owls, and Northern Harriers are seasonally common.

For more information, call or write Kevin Poague, Important Bird Areas Coordinator, Audubon Nebraska, P.O. Box 117, 11700 SW 100th Street, Denton, NE 68339, 402-797-2301, Fax: 402-797-2304.

Prairie Chicken Dance Tours

Prairie Chicken
photo by Don Brockmeier

Red Willow County: Whimsical, charming, fascinating — and for most of the year, elusive — Southwest Nebraska’s Greater Prairie Chickens strut their stuff in a spectacular show each spring.  Join a group of early morning birders on the weekends in late March and April 2016 to observe the annual mating dance that will enchant, amaze and thrill you.

The experience will include a mandatory Orientation Workshop designed to optimize your viewing experience on the evening before the viewing, transportation, viewing experience and breakfast.

Calamus Outfitters: The prairie chicken and its mating dance have been a part of the Nebraska prairie for years. The dance of the prairie chicken is now a major sight-seeing event and Calamus Outfitters has a great opportunity for you to view these dances. Also found on the ranch are sharptail grouse, who also perform a similar mating ritual that can be viewed. Calamus Outfitters has access to a large booming area, or lek, where prairie chickens & grouse gather for their mating ritual.

Harlan White Pelican Watch 2016

March 1 – April 15: View the American White Pelican Spring Migration at the Harlan County Reservoir in south-central Nebraska

Pelican Homecoming Celebration Special Events:

Spring Kick-off Event: Polar Plunge – Patterson Harbor Marina – South side of the lake, March 19; 308-799-4600. (If the pelicans can get in that icy water, so can we…maybe!)

Paradise on the Prairie Art and Photography Show and Silent Auction – March 25-April 1 (closed Mar. 27, Easter); Alma Johnson Center, 509 Main St; artist and public reception April 1, 5-6 p.m.; auction closes 6 p.m. April 1. Sponsored by the Harlan County Arts Council. Free admission. Also student art show on display, sponsored by the Harlan County Journal, using recycled newspapers to create art.

Four Days of Poetic Nights – Alma Johnson Center, 7:30 p.m. daily, Mar. 29-Apr. 1, all events free:

March 29: Nebraska State Poet Twyla Hansen presents “For the Love of Words: Poetry, Prose and the Creative Writing Process,”a workshop for would-be writers. Students and adults welcome.

March 30: Don Welch, winner of the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and retired Reynolds Professor of Literature at UNK, will read from his work.

March 31: Matt Mason, Pushcart Prize winner, 5-time team member at the National Poetry Slam, and director of “Louder than a Bomb: Omaha Youth Poetry Festival,” will read from his work.

April 1: Matt and Kids: after two days spent working with local school students, Matt Mason and the students will gather to read their work for the public.

Alma Chamber of Commerce Spring Fling – April 8, 5-7:30 p.m.; stores stay open late; business booths and meal at auditorium, wagon rides, free drawings.

Plus, world-class, free, easily self-guided lake, river and prairie birding year-round – trail and site maps available on our website or by mail.

Free Birding Boat Tours: Morning and afternoon launch times available daily, March 25 – April 2 (weather permitting). Sponsored by the Harlan County Lake Association for visiting birders. Must register in advance via or 1-800-762-5498

Species list from a previous March 28 birding boat tour: Snow Goose 34, Canada Goose 12, Wood Duck 8, Gadwall 125, American Wigeon 45, Mallard 1250, Blue-winged Teal 75, Cinnamon Teal 1 drake with possible Cinnamon Teal hen, Northern Shoveler 275, Northern Pintail 750, Green-winged Teal 175, Bufflehead 1, Ruddy Duck 3, Ring-necked Pheasant 2, Double-crested Cormorant 675, American White Pelican 550, Great Blue Heron 36 (rookery of 25+ nests), Turkey Vulture 35, Northern Harrier 1, Bald Eagle 2, Red-tailed Hawk 2, American Coot 28, Killdeer 8, Greater Yellowlegs 3, Wilson’s Snipe 3, Franklin’s Gull 6, Ring-billed Gull 42, Eurasian Collared-Dove 2, Mourning Dove 4, Belted Kingfisher 2, Red-bellied Woodpecker 2, Downy Woodpecker 3, Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 3, American Kestrel 1, Eastern Phoebe 2, Blue Jay 2, American Crow 6, Tree Swallow 13, White-breasted Nuthatch 2, American Robin 16, European Starling 9, Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 2, Song Sparrow 17, Northern Cardinal 2, Red-winged Blackbird 75, Common Grackle 50, Brown-headed Cowbird 3, House Finch 2, American Goldfinch 8, House Sparrow 7 – List courtesy of T.J. Walker, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

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