Thousands of outdoor birding enthusiasts from around the planet are converging on central Nebraska, with many of them attending Audubon’s Nebraska Crane Festival in the Kearney area.
Bill Taddicken, with the Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary, says the 45th annual event is known around the globe.
“Each year we get anywhere from 50 to 55, 56 different countries represented and all 50 states,” Taddicken says. “It is the only place in the world where this many cranes gets together. Early in the season, you can add a couple million snow geese and other waterfowl to that. It’s just an amazing spectacle.”
Crane numbers are peaking with upwards of a half-million of the large birds along the Platte River between Kearney and Grand Island. “This is one of the oldest birding festivals in the country,” Taddicken says.
Most of the events are taking place at the Rowe Sanctuary, just off Interstate 80 south of Gibbon. The main conference kicked off last night at the Museum of Nebraska Art with the poet laureate from Colorado, Dave Mason, who read poems about the land, along with musicians who performed bird migration songs. Today’s activities will focus on a host of educational workshops.
“We have lots of concurrent sessions all day long,” Taddicken says. “Our keynote speaker at lunch is Joe Ryan with the National Audubon Society, talking about climate’s impact on birds and what you can do about it.” The evening keynote address is called “Owls, Soul of the Night.”
Saturday will feature activities from sunrise to sunset with the main event being the annual festival banquet.
The Nebraska Game & Parks Commission reports more than 70,000 people will visit Nebraska to view the Sandhill Cranes over the six to eight weeks of the migration and with that, an $8-million economic impact.
By Brent Wiethorn, KKPR, Kearney