The Journey Begins: Waves of Cranes and Geese
What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Dawn arrives with a sky gray, pulsing and noisy. A quarter million or more Snow Geese are floating over Nebraska. I break my rule about no birding along Interstates and grab some quick video of honking clouds and screaming tractor-trailer rigs (below). Onward, westward. As the waves of geese dissipate behind yet more miles of I-80, I begin to notice the rolling trumpet calls, the reaching necks and dangling feet, the dorky elegance of Sandhill Cranes. They are everywhere, rising in great waves from the Platte River, loitering in stubbly corn fields, drifting like thousands of kites over the Plains. Each March these lanky birds carry on one of the great events in all of North American birdwatching, stopping here to fuel up for the journey north or even to nest not that far away, a half million reasons to have faith that spring is indeed approaching.
I slam on the breaks along a muddy road near Kearney, leap from the truck, grab the camera and … nothing. My big lens is misbehaving. I fight it all morning for just a few shots. My cursing may travel far across the Great Plains, but not today, not beneath the infinite calls of cranes and geese.
Next stop: Golden, Colorado.