Nebraskaland April 2019

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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Page 50 of 67

April 2019 • Nebraskaland 51 enough, and defi nitely not sharp enough, for a quality photo. But when you're this close to one of the rarest birds on earth, undetected, you snap away. And then we watched the story of my life unfold as the birds walked within 50 yards of the overnight photo blind I helped him build on that island last year. Really? I'd spent several nights in that blind, sleeping with the cranes. Had I known ... The pair worked their way downriver, feeding in the shallows and occasionally pausing to dance. When they were well out of range, we moved to another blind my friends at the Crane Trust granted me access to, hoping to see the other seven whoopers. We did, hundreds of yards away on the far bank. The next morning we were back in the Trust blind, but the seven whoopers were gone. We spotted the pair, but they were far from Chad's blind. He suggested we take a drive down Shoemaker Island Road and there, feeding in a meadow managed by the Platte River Recovery and Implementation Program, we found the pair again. They must have felt sorry for taunting me the night before. As we watched from the truck, the pair took fl ight, fl ew right over us and started circling, giving me several photo ops, some too close as I was geared up for photos in the fi eld and had no time to change. With each pass they gained altitude. We watched with binoculars until they were specks in the sky and then gone, heading north to their next stop between the central Platte River Valley and their breeding grounds in Canada. This majestic species provided photo ops for many last spring along the Platte. Still endangered, but numbering more than 500 now after falling to 15 in the mid-1900s, there will be more in the years to come. Maybe even when I'm in Chad's photo blind. Whooping cranes fl y above the central Platte River Valley last spring.

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