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WINGS Birding Tours – Photo Gallery

Nebraska: The Sandhills and the Platte River

Cranes and Prairie Grouse

Our tour begins in the Missouri River Valley…
…where we’ll search the upland deciduous forest … …for Pileated Woodpecker and Tufted Titmouse. … singing Carolina Wrens …
… and perhaps we’ll witness the dazzling flight display of American Woodcock.
The bottomland forest here is saturated, and the perfect habitat …
… for hydrophilic species like Rusty Blackbird and Wood Duck.
We’ll head west through the vast rainwater basin …
… where we may hear the songs of both Western and Eastern Meadowlarks …
… and Eastern Bluebirds scout cavities for breeding sites.
The area also attracts large numbers of blackbirds, shorebirds, and raptors, including the migratory “prairie” subspecies of Merlin…
… and close views of a wide range of waterfowl including squat Cackling Geese…
… the dainty Ross’s Goose… … and colorful Greater White-fronted Geese.
The huge and handsome Eastern Fox Squirrel is found across Nebraska … … as is the very local Harris’s Sparrow. The rarely seen Mink is also a possibility as they search for mates in early spring.
The Platte River, broad and shallow as it passes through central Nebraska, is a vital haven for migrating birds … 
… including the more than half a million Sandhill Cranes that stage here each March …
… roosting in the protective waters of the shallow river …
…and sometimes joined by a Whooping Crane, one of the rarest birds on earth.
Here we might run into the unspeakably cute Thirteen-lined Ground-Squirrel, one of half a dozen sciurids possible on our tour. The few towns in the Sandhills live from ranching—but ecotourism is on the rise. Every spring, our enterprising local guide drives decommissioned schoolbuses out onto the grasslands… …where we get breath-taking views of dancing Greater Prairie-chickens …
… and they get equally good views of us.
Another bus overlooks the lek of Sharp-tailed Grouse, which whirl and spin like feathered windup toys.
Only the sudden appearance of a predator—a Coyote, Bobcat, or Bald Eagle—stops the show.
American White Pelicans are the sign that spring—ushered in by the cranes—is in full and glorious swing…
…as is the emergence of reptiles like this Red-sided Garter Snake.