By MIKE COURSON
Great Bend Post
At the start of each spring, more than half a million sandhill cranes converge on the Platte River in Nebraska. They have to make a pitstop somewhere. For the first time in many years, Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Manager Jason Wagner said thousands of cranes have stopped near the Bottoms.
"There were several days last week where I have never seen so many cranes," he said. "It's been a long, long time since I've seen that kind of concentration of cranes in and around the Bottoms area. They were staying just to the south of the bottoms, and some of them were staying on us."
The Nebraska stop, typically around the third week of March, is just another fuel stop for the birds as they travel north from Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico to central and northern Canada for breeding season. In Kansas, Wagner said cranes are more commonly found at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge than the Bottoms, though they have been spotted east of Hoisington this year. After Kansas, the birds will spend around 29 days in Nebraska.
"Cranes are the bird if you're a Nebraskan," Wagner said. "They stage along the Platte River and get in these huge concentrations of numbers. I can kind of see why Nebraskans really like those cranes."
Wagner said, even with drought conditions, birds are unlikely to forget about the Bottoms. Dry conditions may last a few years, but the birds have been traveling through the area for thousands of years.