Some people regard Nebraska as flyover country – a state to be missed as you move from one coast to the other. We wholeheartedly disagree.
Every March, Nebraska becomes home to one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in North America. More than half a million Sandhill Cranes, the world’s largest congregation of cranes, converges on the Platte River Valley in Nebraska. Joining the Sandhill Cranes are another 20 million birds - waterfowl, shorebirds, and the endangered Whooping Crane. They stop to rest and refuel in the adjacent Rainwater Basin before continuing further north to their summer breeding grounds. So many birds are here during spring migration that vast expanses of open sky are filled with sounds of flapping wings and a chorus of calls.
At the same time, male Greater Prairie-Chickens gather at ancient breeding grounds and compete for the chance to mate in Nebraska’s prairie grasslands. Their raucous displays include stomping, booming, whooping, and sparring. With exposed tail coverts and balloon-like air sacs flashing orange and yellow, few performances in the bird world are more memorable than this dawn dance of chickens.
We’ll spend five days exploring Nebraska’s wildlife hotspots. We have strategically selected areas away from crowds so that we have the time and space to truly enjoy these wildlife spectacles in true Reefs to Rockies style. We’ll travel in a custom American safari van with a conversion pop-top and spacious seating. This is not the traditional passenger van you may have traveled in on past trips. This one-of-a-kind vehicle has been specially designed by two wildlife biologists to allow for optimal viewing. It makes a perfect ‘blind’ and there’s ample room for everyone to view at the same time.
Get ready for Spring Magic in Nebraska!
Chip Clouse is a long-time bird tour leader and Reefs to Rockies’ Lead Naturalist Guide. He’s also ProStaff for Opticron Optics and Former Manager of Front Range Birding Company.
Originally enamored with tooth and claw predators, his fascination with birds started by volunteering with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to monitor Peregrine Falcon nest sites. His fascination and love for birds was cemented once he saw his first Western Tanager while working for the Peregrine Fund in Oregon. Chip’s experience includes 20 years of bird research and project management experience in nine states and the Caribbean nation of Grenada, a Masters in Conservation Biology from Colorado State University, five years with the American Birding Association, two years as a rep with Novagrade Digiscoping adapters and stints guiding at 15+ different US birding festivals.
Chip is excited to share his love of birds and habitat in this trip to Nebraska.
The Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT), founded in 1998, creates and protects a network of shortgrass prairie preserves, ensuring a future for native flora and fauna. A donation to SPLT to aid in their land acquisition efforts will be made on behalf of all participants.
Morning departure from Denver for drive to Nebraska’s Platte River Valley with birding stops along the way. We’ll spend time this afternoon searching for cranes feeding in fields adjacent to the North Platte River. In the last hour of daylight, we’ll watch as flocks of cranes return to their nightly roost sites, our first introduction to the magnitude of this annual wildlife spectacle.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn Express and Suites - Ogallala