Thursday, March 11, 2010

The March event line-up!

The Nebraska Nature and Visitor Center (NNVC) is pleased to present an exciting series of speakers and programs during crane migration season.

On Friday, March 12, researcher and author Dr. Paul Johnsgard comes to the nature center. Dr. Johnsgard is the author of numerous books on cranes, including “Crane Music” and “Those of the Gray Wind”. He is Foundation Professor of the School of Biological Sciences at UNL and an authority on crane behavior.

Dr Paul Johnsgard

Saturday, March 13th, Raptor Recovery Nebraska will present a program featuring live raptors. Raptor Recovery focuses on the important role hawks, owls, eagles, kestrels and falcons play in the ecosystem. They rehabilitate injured raptors with the aim of releasing them back into the wild; those unable to fend for themselves are kept as education birds.

Sunday, March 14 brings Will Locke of Hastings College to present his talk “Headwaters of the Platte”. Dr. Locke will show where the river originates and follows its flows through Colorado and Wyoming before reaching the Big Bend near Grand Island and Kearney. This talk is also presented Friday, March 26th.

Saturday, March 20, Photographer Randy Hampton will host a digital workflow and wildlife photography workshop. This is a workshop where people can learn in a hands-on environment with one of the mid-west’s best instructors. “Randy Hampton leading the way: great people, great photography and the backdrop of the Nebraska's sandhill cranes”. Fee of $100 includes a tour to a sandhill crane viewing blind. Contact the Center to register.

Sunday, March 21.UNK graduate student Lindsay Vivian presents a program on the rare Platte River caddisfly, an insect found only in this area.

On Saturday March 27th and Sunday March 28, re-enactor Brian "Fox" Ellis brings legendary naturalist John James Audubon and biologist Charles Darwin to life. Fox will be presenting his entertaining an educational program at 1 p.m. both days.

All programs are presented at 1 p.m. in the center's display room. Admission to all programs unless otherwise stated are free to the general public. Donations are gladly accepted.

Brian "Fox" Ellis

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stuhr Museum Speakers Series each Saturday this March

Her'e a list of speakers appearing at Stuhr Museum this month. I recommend checking them out!

March 6: Dr. William Beachly 2 p.m. in the Stuhr Auditorium. Dr. Beachly, who spoke in 2009, will present “Water Watchers of the West,” a celebration of the Platte River through biology, literature, photography and philosophy.

March 13: Artist Talk and Reception for the "Wings Over the Platte" Art Exhibit and Sale Featuring Artist Julie Crocker 2 p.m. in Lacy Hall. This year’s “Wings Over the Platte” Featured Artist is award-winning wildlife artist Julie Crocker, and she will talk about her pieces in the show, her inspiration and why the crane migration continues to inspire her as an artist. Crocker, a Nebraska native, has been named the Ducks Unlimited Nebraska Artist of the Year and works with many wildlife and conservation programs.

March 20: Steven Yellow Bird Ervin 2 p.m. in the Stuhr Auditorium. Native American Steven Yellow Bird Ervin will speak about the Platte River’s significance in Native American culture, as well as how the river, wildlife and the cranes inspired his art and life.

March 27: Ground Water Guardians 2 p.m. in the Stuhr Auditorium. The annual migration has a large impact on many aspects of life in Nebraska, including groundwater. During the final presentation of the series, representatives from the Ground Water Guardian organization will speak on conservation and what the public can do to help.

Admission to each event is $8 for adults, $6 for children and FREE for Stuhr and Hastings Museum members. For more information, call the museum at (308) 385-5316 or log onto

Saturday, March 6, 2010

First Viewing Blind Trip of the Season

We have officially started out guided viewing blind tours for the 2010 "Crane Season". As many of you know, the cranes were later then they had been in the last few years to make there way north from their wintering grounds. With the breeze out of the south over the last few days, we have seen large numbers of geese and cranes come into our area. It really is a refreshing sight and sound.

Our first tour had Dan, Jim, Mary, Michael, Erin, Laurine, and Tana tossed together from states such as South Dakota, Texas, Minnesota, and Nebraska towns including Hastings, Axtell and Lincoln. We were all gathered together for a few hours to learn about, but mostly just watch and listen to the spring migration.

One of our main viewing blinds is positioned on a man-made bluff overlooking the south channel of the river and I have to say it is a wonderful place to observe the birds as they make their way to and from the river where they roost. We are able to see several miles up and down stream to watch the birds as they glide right in front of the windows. There are times when was just overload as a cacophony of sound and motion unraveled in front of us.

It was brisk but not overly cold or windy which was nice. It can be very cold going out, you just never know. I keep my trunk full of coats, hats, boots and gloves for things like this never quite knowing what the weather will toss at us from day to day.

When the birds began to settle, they roosted on a larger ice sheet. It's always hard to tell how many birds are in any given roost but my best guess would be that we had a good 2000 birds on that particular roost. The ice made for a very surreal look as they walked around to claim their

When the tour was over, we made our way out of the blind under cover of darkness walking straight north directly away from the river down a slight incline. This allows us to get out of there without the birds knowing we are there. We stay in a tight bunch and walk slowly so as to not attract attention and possibly simulate a herd of deer walking around. I really have no idea if this makes a difference to a bird flying overhead, but it makes us feel like we’re at least trying to have a minimal impact of the wildlife.

During the walk back to the cars, we had birds flying directly overhead causing us to stop several times and just listen and look.

My adage stands the test of time. My favorite tour is always my most recent tour. I just love it. Stay tuned, we have along way to go!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crimson Crown Gift Shop Opens

Here's a few photos of the gallery and the gift shop. We really have a lot of unique and interesting things for sale in the shop. We'll get more info out and add to our page on the regular web-site later this spring.

We've had a ton of volunteers and staff going like mad to pull this thing together over the last weeks and months. I have to say it really looks first rate and highlights a lot of our local artists and merchants. We are also opening or snack bar that includes all kinds of goodies to enjoy including our house brand Migration Celebration Coffee.

If your in the area, stop by and say hello and see if there's something you just can't live without!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chicken and Stars Tour

The Nebraska Nature and Visitor Center (NNVC) is pleased to offer the Chicken and Stars tour -- an opportunity to view two of the prairie's signature birds, the greater prairie chicken and sharptail grouse -- in the Nebraska Sandhills.

The trip begins the afternoon of Friday, April 9; participants will drive on their own to the Sandhills Motel in Mullen, NE. If skies that evening are clear, NNVC program coordinator Dan Glomski will lead a viewing and photography session of the beautiful Sandhills night sky.

Participants then rise predawn Saturday morning to witness close-up the dances of the prairie chickens and grouse on their breeding grounds, known as leks. The males seek to attract females while fighting off other males; they inflate their air sacs (orange on the chicken, purple on the grouse), as the prairie chickens make an eerie call likened to blowing crossways along the top of a soda bottle.

Saturday afternoon, participants travel to the Nebraska National Forest at Halsey for hiking and photography. From here, participants may either leave for home or stay for an additional evening of night sky viewing (weather permitting) and a second morning of prairie chicken and grouse viewing.

Cost of the tour is $125 per person for a single participant; double occupancy, $75/person. The cost includes Friday night accommodations at Sandhills Motel and guided morning viewing and photography of the prairie chicken and sharptail lek. Meals are not included. Saturday evening accommodations and Sunday morning chicken/sharptail viewing are optional and must be arranged by participants.

For more information, contact Dan Glomski at or 308-382-1820. Space on the tour is very limited, and participants are strongly encouraged to make reservations as soon as possible. Deadline for signup is March 20.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Whooper Watch

Call Whooper Watch 1-888-3WWATCH (1-888-399-2824) if you have spotted a whooping crane.

It’s time once again to turn our eyes to the skies and enjoy Nebraska’s spring migration season. One of the most exciting things for birdwatcher to find is a whooping crane. (grus americana) That means it’s time to roll out the whooper watch program again this year.

The Whooper Watch program was started years ago to enlist volunteers to help monitor and record information regarding the whereabouts and activities of whooping cranes while they are in the area. The Platte River and rainwater basin area in Nebraska provide a migratory stopover habitat for whooping cranes. Local volunteers are valuable and needed to help scientists gather data.

Why is this important? Whooping crane numbers are small with ~ 263 birds currently known to be in the central flyway region of North America. While birds migrate to and from their wintering grounds at Aransas Wildlife refuge on the gulf coast of Texas to their nesting grounds at Woods Buffalo national park in Saskatchewan Canada. The migration is a perilous time for birds accounting for much of the mortality experienced by whoppers’. Any information gathered about the birds while en route north or south is helpful for many reasons. This is why the program was established.

Whooping cranes migrate through Nebraska in both the spring and fall time frame. Typical spring migration time from is late March through mid-April. In the fall they can be found in the October – November time frame. Weather and other factors play a role in when the birds come through a given area.

If you are interested in volunteering you can contact Dr Karine Gil at the Platte River Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust for training or more information. (1-888-399-2824), or you can contact us at the Nebraska Nature & Visitor Center for more information about the program.

Power point slides below are from a presentation and are courtesy of Dr. Karine Gil.

Click on a photo to enlarge: