If my memory serves me correctly, I arrived in Nebraska on Saturday November 3, 1990. I never intended to make Nebraska my permanent home, I viewed it as a step on a career ladder. Plans are what you make until you know what you have done. My career ladder ended here, and twenty years later, it doesn't look like any moves are in my future. That particular Saturday had been a home Nebraska football game. Colorado, if the sieve I call a memory is correct. Nebraska had lost and the mood in the long term motel I had checked into was grim. I hadn't been a follower of college football, and was perplexed by the gloom and doom. Twenty years later, I understand it fully. Failure to wear a Nebraska t-shirt or sweat shirt on game day won't get you lynched, but it certainly will draw some looks. Nebraskans are passionate about Nebraska football.
There is another passion in Nebraska. Sandhill cranes. It's not nearly so passionate, and in many ways not so nearly widespread. But it's a passion. Folks who wouldn't know a cardinal from a robin talk about "the cranes". Perhaps in part because it signals the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
In February and March following my arrival, people began to talk about "the cranes". I was told by more than one, everyone has to go see "the cranes" at least once.
One Sunday in early March a friend and I had an early brunch. We had nothing else pressing to do, and decided to head down to Grand Island to see "the cranes". We found some and were frustrated by our inability to see them well, so we went to the local Wally world and bought the absolute last two pairs of binoculars they had. Found out later that we had gotten what we paid for. They were really crappy binoculars. But they helped us see "the cranes" better. Took a few photos of them and of some white "ducks". The white "ducks", I was informed later were snow geese.
I didn't realize it at the time, but the calls of "the cranes" spoke to my soul. If you've ever heard their chatter, you will, most likely, understand what I mean. If you haven't had the privilege, get thyself somewhere where you can hear and see them. As soon as possible.
And so, after a couple more March trips to see "the cranes", (with my really crappy binoculars) I learned the difference between a cardinal and a robin, and oh so much more about birds and nature in general.
Why have I bothered to write all of this? Earlier this evening I read a posting on 10,000 Birds by Julie Zickefoose. Her posting is disturbing on many levels. I'm not going to excerpt any parts of her posting, partly because I would want to just repost all of it.
So just go read it. All of it. Read all of the comments too. Julie responds to the commenters and gives more information and data in the comments.
My last posting on viewing Sandhill cranes in Nebraska in March is here