Volunteer Training Dates Set
They are coming! You know who “they” are: sandhill cranes and the thousands of (human) visitors that come to see them in the Platte River valley.
For the past two springs, volunteers have come through big time for the nature center, helping in all kinds of ways: leading crane tours, running the snack bar and front desk, selling merchandise, and much more. With two crane seasons under our belts, we expect more folks this year. More than ever, we need your help in 2012!
This year, crane season at the center begins the afternoon of Friday, March 2 and wraps up Sunday, April 8. During that time, we'll need as much help as we can find. Whether you're an experienced volunteer or someone brand new to the center, we'll find a place for you!
The nature center has scheduled two volunteer training sessions: Saturday, February 25, from 9 a.m. to noon, and Tuesday, February 28 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The training sessions are identical, so you need only attend one. To help us plan, please RSVP by calling us at (308) 382-1820 or sending a e-mail to email@example.com.
We ask that all volunteers attend one of the sessions, if possible. If you cannot make either session, please let us know and we can arrange for personal, one-on-one training.
We're looking forward to your joining us for another great crane season!
Birds and Bagels: Flicker February
On Saturday, February 18, join us for Birds and Bagels at the nature and visitor center. We begin at 8:30 a.m. with a hike from the center to the south classroom, counting species along the way.
Arriving at the classroom, we'll watch the feeding station, which is usually crowded with hungry birds! Meanwhile, hungry B & B participants can enjoy a selection of muffins, bagels, coffee, tea, juice etc. before hiking back to the center by 11 a.m.
We ask a donation of $5.00 per person to cover the cost of refreshments and trail maintenance.
This month's featured bird is the northern flicker (Colaptes auratus). This large and distinctive woodpecker often sits on the ground, using its exceptionally long tongue to devour ants. Outside of ant-season, flickers often visit backyard feeding stations, and are especially fond of suet. Two races of flickers are found in Nebraska: the yellow-shafted has yellow wing undersides and is more common in central Nebraska then the red-shafted race, found to the west.
Feel free to give us a call or drop us an e-mail for more information. Bring a friend or two, and don't forget a camera if you have one. Feel free to post photos on our Facebook page.
Looking forward to seeing you!
"The Big Morning"
On Saturday, March 24, Nebraska birding enthusiasts will have a rare opportunity to go birding in South Central Nebraska with nationally acclaimed birder Greg Miller. Having surpassed the 700-species mark for a single calendar year, Miller's adventures have been chronicled in the book "The Big Year" and were popularized recently by actor Jack Black's character in the movie of the same name.
The March 24 field trip, "The Big Morning," is being hosted by
the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center. Birders of all skill levels, from beginners to experts, are invited to participate. A list of bird species seen and heard during the trip will be recorded, although the pace will be relaxed.
The registration fee for The Big Morning field trip with Greg
Miller is $40.00 per participant, which includes transportation and lunch. The trip is sponsored by the Wild Bird Habitat Store in Lincoln in conjunction with CTNVC.
The group will depart at 7:30 a.m. from a designated location and will travel by bus with Miller to birding "hotspots" in South
Central Nebraska. Birding will wrap up around 11:30 a.m. so that participants may enjoy lunch with Miller before returning to the meeting area by 12:30 p.m.
Space on "The Big Morning" is quite limited, and only early birds are likely to get spots. For more information or to sign up, call the nature and visitor center today!
"The Big Morning" is part of a series of events being held March
21-24 organized by Nebraska's Big Year, a collaboration between Central Community College-Grand Island, the Nebraska Bird Partnership and the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center. Financial sponsors include the Nebraska Environmental Trust, Hall County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Moonshell Arts and Humanities Council and the Wild Bird Habitat Store. For more information on other events planned for Nebraska's Big Year, please go to:
Snowy Owls: A Bird Worth Getting Excited About!
When one thinks of Nebraska’s birds, the snowy owl rarely comes to mind. That’s probably because this iconic northern raptor rarely ever comes to Nebraska. While an occasional long distance migrant is spotted in the state each year, this winter has been one for the ages.
As I write this more than 100 different owls have been confirmed throughout the state, several of which were located right here in the Platte River Valley. This phenomena, which may only occur once or twice in our lifetime, is known as an irruption. There are two basic theories about the cause of snowy owl irruptions: either the owl’s main food source of lemmings crashes, or lemming numbers are high and, therefore, owl productivity is also high. No matter the cause, the principle is the same: Competition for resources drives the owls south from their normal wintering grounds in search of food.
Snowy owls are the largest owl species in North America and can weigh more than 6 pounds. Unfortunately, because of their long journey south many arrive in Nebraska severely underweight. If they’re able to gain the resources they need during their stay chances are good that they’ll have a successful northward migration. Some, however, never make it back.
Unlike most owls, snowy owls are active during the day and are therefore easily seen by humans. Sometimes they are also quite approachable. If you’re lucky enough to encounter a snowy owl you should keep some distance to avoid flushing the bird. By allowing the owl to hunt, it just might acquire enough food to make it successfully back to the arctic. Who knows, you may even see it again someday!
-Greg Wright, Crane Trust Wildlife Biologist
(Photo by Paul Dunbar)
Another Rare Bird
Another bird that's caused quite a stir here is this Common Crane (Grus grus), thousands of miles off target from its usual Eurasian homeland. On occasion, a common is spotted in March or April amongst countless sandhill cranes, making a search for the bird the avian equivalent of the needle-in-a-haystack. But with this Common amongst a small number of cranes feeding it has been relatively easy to see. Birders from as far as Arizona and Ontario have visited the area to add the Common to their life lists, and the nature and visitor center has been the place-to-go for the latest sightings.
As of this writing, the Common is still in the area, best seen in the morning near the intersection of Rosedale and Alda Roads, just a few miles south of the nature and visitor center. Feel free to call us for the latest scoop!
Wrapping Up Loose Ends . . .
* Check out the February 2012 edition of Prairie Fire; the nature and visitor center has articles for first-time crane watchers and Nebraska's Big Year.
* Nikon scopes has donated the use of three spotting scopes and eight pairs of binoculars during crane season. Thanks to Nikon, crane tour participants are assured of getting the best views of birds that we can offer.