For millions of years, cranes have migrated through what is now south central Nebraska on their way to breeding grounds in the north. I was honored to witness the spectacle of sandhill cranes gathering on the Platte River in late March. At sunset the cranes fly in by the thousands from the fields to roost on the river overnight; at dawn they rise in groups both small and large, and disperse to glean grain from the late-winter fields. Some half a million cranes pass through there, in the vicinity of Kearney, Nebraska, from late February to early April each year. The sight and primordial sound of hundreds or thousands of cranes, with the backdrop of some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises I have ever seen, will long stay with me. So will the moment when a clamorous group we were watching, at some signal undetectable by us, went completely silent. A few breathless moments passed -- and then they lifted en masse into the sky.
Turn up the volume on the video to hear the cranes.