A rumble of thunder and flashes of lightening illuminated a spectacular scene that “National Geographic calls the annual migration of sandhill cranes one of North America’s greatest wildlife phenomena,” according to the Crane Trust.
Every spring 80% of Lesser Sand Hill Cranes and some Greater Sand Hill Cranes fly to the Platte River in greater concentrations than anywhere in the world. Fossil beds in parts of NE contain the remains of prehistoric cranes from 10 million years ago. Sand Hill Cranes feel safe from predators in about 2 inches of Ogallala water. Grassland birds of the great plains migrate from Siberia and Canada to the southern US and Northern Mexico. Their main migratory path is north-south constrained by the Rocky Mountains in the same way as the aquifer was when the mountains were formed.
Sand Hill Cranes land on Crane Trust property feeding on adjacent farmland's waste corn. Ironically, it is because modern agriculture took away the constrained rivers they need to survive. Annually 560,000 come through on migration in the shape of an hourglass fanning out in the north and the south, but hitting a choke point in the middle around Kearney NE on the Platte River.
The Crane Trust counted 413,000 Sandhill Cranes on this evening-more than they’ve ever counted before, so this image is what it must have looked like millions of years ago. Conservation groups tirelessly work to keep 20 miles of the Platte River a perfect habitat for the 560,000 cranes that fly through.
Sandhill Cranes are millions of years old and evolved during the Pleistocene. One of the biggest migration corridors in the world hinges on a core of volunteers and the money they raise to dredge the rivers back to the place they were millions of years ago. So this photo addresses cranes habitat.
- RANDY OLSON
- Image Size
- 6000x4276 / 146.9MB
animal behavior, animals, animals in the wild, aquifers, birds, color image, cranes, cranes (birds), dramatic sky, flying, great plains, grus canadensis, high plains aquifer, large group of animals, lightning, midwestern states, migration, nebraska, night, no people, north america, outdoors, photography, platte river, power in nature, rivers, roosting, sandhill cranes, surface, united states, usa, water, wildlife, wood river
- Contained in galleries
- Ogallala Aquifer_National Geographic Magazine 8/2016