Each spring over a half-million Sandhill Cranes congregate on Nebraska's Platte River in one of the world's greatest migration spectacles. Along with these majestic birds, thousands of birdwatchers flock to Audubon's Rowe Sanctuary near Kearney to see and hear this astounding migration display.

In conjunction with the Sandhill Crane migration, 37th annual Rivers and Wildlife Celebration will be held March 16-18, 2007, in Kearney, NE. The event, which this year is presented by Audubon Nebraska, Audubon's Rowe Sanctuary, and the Nebraska Partnership for All-Bird Conservation, is open to anyone interested in experiencing one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth and learning more about the natural world in an informal atmosphere. (Registration for the celebration is required).

Wildlife enthusiasts from around the world travel to central Nebraska each year to participate in this weekend of field trips, presentations by nationally known environmental speakers, and more. Featured presenters this year include:

  • Bruce Babbitt – Former U. S. Secretary of the Interior, Clinton Administration
  • John Acorn – Television's "Acorn, The Nature Nut" as seen on Discovery Channel and Animal Planet
  • Scott Hereford – Wildlife biologist, Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge
  • Dr. Paul Johnsgard – Renowned Ornithologist

The real highlights of the weekend, of course, are the birds, and there are many opportunities to witness the spectacular migration. Viewing blinds along the Platte River allow up-close observations of cranes leaving the River at sunrise and returning to the river at sunset. Experienced birders will lead full- and half-day trips to the best local birding areas to view migrating waterfowl and other birds and wildlife.

For almost 40 years, people from all over have come to witness this natural spectacle. The arrival of the 4-foot-tall cranes on the Platte River signifies the beginning of spring. In addition to the visual spectacle of the crane migration, is the unforgettable call that cranes make. When thousands of cranes call at once, it is like the roar of a crowd at a football game!

"This migration has been occurring for tens of thousands of years and is truly an amazing sight to witness," said Bill Taddicken, assistant manager of the Rowe Sanctuary and Iain Nicolson Audubon Center. "For birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts in general, this is definitely a must-see event."

Throughout the migration period, Rowe Sanctuary's staff and volunteers take visitors to the viewing blinds on the edge of the river where, hidden from the cranes, people can watch this dramatic scene unfold. Skilled guides accompany all visitors to answer questions.

Reservations must be made to view the Sandhill Crane migration at Rowe Sanctuary. Note that the viewing blinds will be occupied from March 16 through the morning of March 18 due to the Rivers and Wildlife Celebration.

And once again this year, for those who are not able to make the trip to Nebraska, Audubon and National Geographic Magazine will allow nature enthusiasts, bird lovers, and photography buffs to witness the largest concentration of Sandhill Cranes in the world from a unique "cranes-eye view" via National Geographic's CraneCam.

For the fourth straight year, from March 2 through April 15 a camera placed on an island within Audubon's Rowe Sanctuary on the Platte River will provide outstanding views of Sandhill Cranes roosting by the thousands in the shallow water of the Platte. The best time to watch the cranes on the CraneCam is early morning, starting from first light to well after sunrise, and from late afternoon until dark. There is a direct link to the CraneCam on Rowe's home page, www.rowesanctuary.org.

For a registration brochure or for more information about the Rivers and Wildlife Celebration, call or write Audubon Nebraska, P.O. Box 117, Denton, NE 68339; (402) 797-2301; nebraska@audubon.org; www.nebraska.audubon.org.

For crane viewing information, call or write Rowe Sanctuary, 44450 Elm Island Road, Gibbon, NE 68840; (308) 468-5282; www.rowesanctuary.org.

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