Photo by Jim Tierney
Cranes near North Platte, March 27
The public can view greater prairie-chickens and Sandhill cranes at no charge at public viewing blinds in the North Platte area.Prairie chickens
A greater prairie-chicken viewing blind is 15 miles southwest of North Platte on the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Project (NCORPE) land.
The NCORPE project, in cooperation with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, has set up a viewing trailer blind on a prairie-chicken lek -- a specific area where birds gather to display mating rituals year-after-year.
The public can see the mating rituals of the male prairie-chickens, interact in the bird’s environment and see the importance of habitat for these birds.
Prairie chickens are an overlooked native species that put on a great mating show, organizers say. The males will drum their feet and strut their territory while keeping other males away as they try to attract the females. The males have brightly colored air sacs on the sides of their necks that they inflate and “ear-like” pinnae feathers that they raise and lower during their dances.
The viewing blind is open Monday-Friday, March 20-April 28, and on some weekend dates -- Saturdays April 8 and 22 and Sundays April 2, 16, and 30.
Other weekend dates may be available upon request.
Viewing sessions begin 1.5 hours before sunrise so viewers can get into the blind without disturbing the prairie chickens in their natural habitat. For more information, visit http://www.ncorpe.org/wildlife-viewing.
To schedule a viewing time, contact Bill Sellers at 308-534-6752 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservations are first-come, first-served.
A crane viewing blind is available at North River Wildlife Management Area between North Platte and Hershey.
On many evenings, cranes roost in the river in front of the blind. Several thousand cranes will fill the sky as they fly the river channel in front of the blind as they look for places to rest for the night. The sights and sounds from the blind are spectacular, organizers say.
Getting to the blind requires a half-mile hike on a designated path from the east parking lot of the area. The path is across mostly level terrain. Water resistant footwear is recommended. The blind has room for about eight adults. Crane viewing etiquette is listed, along with a map and designated path to the blind at the parking area, and in the blind. The blind is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
To get to the WMA from Hershey, drive 3 miles north on North Hershey Road to Wildlife Road, turn right and go nearly 2 miles east on the gravel. The parking lot is on the south side of the road.
For more info, call the North Platte Game and Parks office at 308-535-8025.