Friday, April 5, 2013

2013 Spring Trip - Day 1 - Driving to Nebraska

Friday, March 22, 2013

Boy it's been a long time since my last blog.  It's not that I haven't been doing any shooting it's just I haven't been doing much.  During this time of the year it's time to head out west which is what I did from March 22 thru March 31.

I left home early in the morning.  For the first time I was going by myself.  My wife Carolyn is still in school, just a few more weeks to go, and my friend Travis, whom I have traveled with the three previous trips had gotten married just two days before, March 20, and he and his wife were a day behind me, we would later meet up in Utah.

For the forth year, the first stop is the Rowe Sanctuary by Kearney Nebraska.  This is the time of year when the Sandhill Cranes, and other bird,  head north to their summer breeding grounds.  The Platte River, in central Nebraska, has long been a refueling stop for the Sandhills with hundreds of thousands passing thru here during a 3 to 4 week period starting in March.

Landing Gear down, prepare to land.

It was a beautiful day as I left Minnesota but I knew a storm was brewing across Nebraska.  It wasn't until I headed west from Des Moines that the sky started clouding up and the further I went west the cloudier it got.  I was rushing to get to the sanctuary by 5:00 pm since I had a reservation in the evening group blind.  Turns out that wasn't a problem and I got there with plenty of time to spare so I spent a little time driving around the fields look for and shooting the cranes.

A long exposure makes ghostly figures except for the one standing still

The central U.S. has long been a great place for the cranes to rest during their migration north.  Before man started taming the wilderness it was said the Platte River was a mile wide and an inch deep.  This along with the spring ice and floods that flowed from the Rockies kept this area free of plants and trees and made for a perfect place for the cranes to roost at night.  The river gives them protection and a warning from predators.  Today with dams in place and the water flow being controlled, the Platte River is much narrower and native vegetation has covered much of the area the cranes need for roosting.  Thanks to the efforts of Rowe Sanctuary, and other organizations, work is done during the summer to keep areas of the river free of vegetation so the craned have a perfect place to roost.

Group landing

The diet of the cranes has changed a bit as well.  Cranes will eat seeds, tubers as well as bugs, mice, snakes and other creatures.  What with the extensive farming in Nebraska the cranes have an abundance of waste corn on which to gain the 20% of their body weight they put on for the continuing trek north.

The afternoon turned quite dark as the clouds thickened and shooting cranes in the fields required hi ISO, large apertures and slower shutter speeds, far from idea conditions (a theme that would follow).  I didn't make many images but it was fun being in Nebraska with the cranes again.

A long exposure turns the cranes in flight into an visual abstract.

We met at the sanctuary, split into our groups and headed out to our blinds.  Our blind was upstream and named Stevie, a very nice blind.  We enter the blinds well before the sun sets and well before the cranes arrive.  I've seen some wonderful sunsets from these blinds but a sunset was not to be this evening.  As the sun set behind the clouds it got quite dark very early.  By the time the cranes started arriving it was almost to dark to photograph.  Those of us that were using tripods and had camera with decent ISO capabilities were able to capture a few images.

The sky fills with cranes

One thing about the weather being like it was, I found myself watching the cranes more so than looking thru a viewfinder.  The number of cranes was astonishing and I believe I was experiencing the peak of the migration this year.

It was a fun and enjoyable evening.  The only thing missing was not having Carolyn there to share the experience with me.


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