Friday, December 31, 2010

Chicken and Stars

While cranes are the area's main avian attraction, the greater prairie chicken puts on a great show of its own. Check out this video:

(Video by Bob Fagan, courtesy of Don Fagan)

Last April, Brad and I led a field trip to the Sandhills to view chickens in the morning and the stars during the evening -- both put on a great show, and participants really enjoyed the experience. So we're doing it again in 2011, and you're invited!

Our 2nd annual "Chicken and Stars" tour takes place April 22-24, 2011. We'll meet at Sandhills Motel in Mullen late Friday afternoon, eat and, if weather allows, stargaze that evening. The next morning we'll be driven to a dancing ground or "lek," where male prairie chickens defend territories in the hopes of attracting hens to mate. (The "master cock" near the center of the lek gets most of the matings.)

This time, we're extremely honored to have Dr. Paul Johnsgard as a guest on the trip. Between dinner and night sky viewing Friday, Dr. Johnsgard will present a program on grassland grouse (including the greater prairie chicken).

Cost for "Chicken and Stars" is $150/person (double occupancy), including Friday night lodging, Saturday a.m. chicken viewing, and stargazing both Friday and Saturday nights. For further details, send us a message at

Friday, December 24, 2010

Eagles at J2 and Christmas Bird counting

I went over to the J2 power plant near Lexington, NE last year to view eagles. It really is a great thing to see. Be sure to bring binoculars. Press release below:

Date: Dec. 14, 2010
Contact: Jeff Buettner, Communications Officer
Phone: (308) 995-8601

Central's Eagle-viewing Facilities to Open for Season on Dec. 26

(HOLDREGE, Neb.) -- The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District will once again provide eagle-watching opportunities to the public this winter.

Central's eagle-viewing facilities at the Johnson No. 2 (J-2) hydroelectric plant near Lexington and in a freestanding building below Kingsley Dam will be open on Sunday, Dec. 26 and Sunday, Jan. 2. Thereafter, the facilities will be open each weekend through mid-February.

Hit the jump to read on...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Platte reminds us that it is still a real river!

This winter has brought on higher then normal river flows, at least when measured against the past 7-10 years. This mixed with the cold has brought on ice that has formed a natural dam causing water to flow out of the established stream bed flooding mostly farm ground and pasture. The stretch of river just south of our Nature Center between the Alda road and Highway 281 is flatter then other stretches of the river causing it to shallow up and flow wider. This gives the ice a place to run aground causing the flood.

The ice has an important impact on the stream bed acting like an earth scraper that removes vegetation opening up the sandbars. This is important to the water-flow and the wildlife component of the river. A lot of work has been done through mechanical and chemical methods to keep the river channel free, but this really cleans her out the old fashioned way!

Hit the jump to read on...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Season's Greetings!

2011 sandhill crane viewing tours are open

What do people from Michigan, Nebraska, California, Kansas, Colorado and Ohio have in common?

They all have people who have already signed up for guided sandhill crane viewing tours through the Nebraska Nature & Visitor Center!

What a great last minute Christmas Gift idea!

Before we know it, sandhill cranes will begin their famed stopover along the banks of the Platte River. The nature center is ready! We are pleased to open reservations for 2011 guided crane tours. Readers of the Green Shoe Diaries get the first shot at early registration.

Guided tours begin the afternoon of March 4. We offer the choice of a viewing blind tour – where visitors view the birds from within an enclosed blind along the Platte River – and the footbridge tour, during which visitors watch cranes from our footbridge spanning the Platte's north channel. Both tours begin with a 15-minute introduction to the sandhill cranes and their migratory journey. Cost for the viewing blind tour is $25/person; while the footbridge tour costs $10 per person. (Tax is charged for crane tours.)

Crane season at the nature center wraps up April 6. Tours can fill quickly, particularly during the peak of the season (late March), so early registration is strongly recommended. You can register online at, call us at 308-382-1820, or e-mail us at for further information.

30 Second Radio Public Service Announcement (PSA)

This is one of four radio public service announcements that were produced as a class project by senior communications student Nick Blasnitz from Hastings College. We will distribute these to local radio stations for broadcast this spring. Let me know what you think! Also, if you recognize the music, be the first to correctly ID the artist and I will send you one their cd's as a gift! Drop an email to with your name and address.

Update: Michael from Aurora, Ne knew that the pianist was Dr. Karine Gil. We will be sending Michael Karine's newest CD from our gift shop!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dan on NTV

Dan's appearance on NTV where he explains the lunar eclipse. I like his scale model!