To witness a timeless rite of spring. we took a short trip west of Lincoln to see the famous spring migration of the Sandhill Cranes of Nebraska.
‘Oh mother!’ said my daughters in a typical teenage whine, ‘Do we have to?’ This was in response to my suggestion to my family about taking a short trip west of Lincoln to see the famous spring migration of the Sandhill Cranes of Nebraska. Nevertheless, we bundled our two kids and ourselves in our car and set out on a balmy Sunday afternoon to witness a timeless rite of spring.
As we left Lincoln and preceded west, the highway rose over a gentle hill and suddenly miles upon miles of open plain was around us. I had traveled I-89 many times in both directions but suddenly, after 30 years of living in the plains, the wide-open space hit me with a tremendous exhilaration. Suddenly I became a true Nebraskan, in love with this open farmland, and the infinite sky overhead. Somehow I did not think this joy was shared by my children. They had ipods stuck in their ears and were deep in a bag full of munchies.
It took us some time to figure out where exactly to stop. We had set off on an impulse, without a guidebook or a map. I had this romantic idea about seeing the birds lined up on either side of the highway. I was not too far wrong. Once you spot them, you suddenly see them everywhere. Hundreds of them roosting in the cornfields and along the Platte River all the way from Grand Island to Kearney. Their grey color blends perfectly with the gray-brown earth and makes spotting difficult in the beginning. Occasionally we saw the graceful ’v’ of the birds flying overhead, but mostly they were feeding on the left over grains and resting up before their long flight north.
We left the car in one of the farms and walked in the fields. We had to step carefully to avoid stepping on a cow dung or stubbles of the cornstalk. Needless to say, the girls were not at all impressed. But Suddenly we found ourselves amongst the cranes, and all around us were earth, birds and sky. No cars, no farmhouses, no human figures broke the horizon. The birds were surprisingly fearless (must have gotten used to camera toting tourists) and went on feeding calmly. I wanted to take their picture, but even by throwing a stone or a stick, I could only dislodge a few reluctant birds that promptly settled back to feed. They definitely decided they would not fly.
Then fate smiled upon us. Suddenly over the horizon a goods train approached. It came noiselessly and fast. And on its wake the birds rose in waves. Hundreds upon hundreds of clamoring birds filled up the bright blue sky with their grey-white wings. There were birds all around us, overhead and in all directions. Yet it was exhilarating, not scary at all. There were so many birds; I did not know where to point the camera. And after a few moments of picture taking, I just left my camera and stood enjoying the show. The birds clamored all around us. Their joyous cries filing up the sky.
After the train left, the birds gradually subsided. We watched them for a long time, admiring their graceful silhouette against the darkening evening sky. We were alone in the vast field only with the birds and all the world was at peace, waiting quietly for the nightfall.
As darkness fell, we reluctantly left the fields and the birds and trooped to our car for the drive back home. I could not help bur realize that this was one of the best trips our family had taken. And yet, we didn’t have to plan, buy air tickets, and spend a lot of money or anything. In terms of sheer pleasure, this little impromptu excursion ranked with our trips to Hawaii, or Bahamas, Paris or Aspen.
And I am sure the cranes touched my children’s hearts too. After all how can it not be?
— Learning&Creativity (@LearnNCreate) March 23, 2015
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