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    Posted March 3, 2009 by
    Gibbon, Nebraska
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Share your secret places

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    Sleeping with the Sandhill Cranes



    One of the most majestic sights in the world: The annual migration of nearly 500,000 Sandhill Cranes. My secret place? A plywood "blind" positioned on the edge of the Platte river near Gibbon, Nebraska. I bundle up and prepare to spend the night on the sandy river bank with a thermos full of coffee and a pile of sleeping bags to shield me from the bitter March winds. The largest congregation of Sandhill Cranes takes place along an 80 mile stretch of the Platte river. While stopping over during late April and March, the cranes will forage on nearby cornfields adding critical weight for the long flights ahead ... some for destinations as far away as Siberia. The cranes also use this time to form strong pair bonds expressed through elaborate dance.


    I spent a night in a photo blind at the edge of the Platte river in order to photograph the Sandhill cranes. The birds are very wary and this was one way to hopefully get a better vantage point as they came in to roost in the evening.





    The following is an excerpt from my journal following the experience:



    The night I stayed on the Platte river, the conditions for photography were dismal. It was overcast, dull and colorless. The North wind was gusting and making my eyes water which in turn created enough moisture and warmth to fog up the viewfinder on my camera. I took what pictures I could and then sat back and enjoyed the escalating symphony of crane wings and crane songs as the birds flew in from the nearby corn fields and congregated on the sandbars. At dark I crawled into my sleeping bag believing the experience was over until dawn the next day.



    I had visitors in the night. The first was a mouse I assume. I didn't actually see him but he made his presence known by stealing a corner of my beef stick and then hoisting the remaining package onto my head. After being made aware of this late night heist I had much difficulty getting back to sleep. On the other side of the thin plywood wall I hear bird sounds. A soft quiet chortle, distinct and astonishingly close. Cautiously I wriggled out of my three sleeping bags and peeked through the window. More visitors. My breath caught as I saw a mass of silvery gray bodies bedded down next to my tiny shack in the reeds at the rivers edge. I felt frozen in time. I could have reached my hand out and stroked one of their feathers, they were so close. Their bodies were all touching with no ground visible between them. It was very dark and yet a meager light from somewhere, diffused by the fog, was creating a surreal affect on that throng of shimmering feathers and curled necks. It was an unspeakable beauty.



    the following morning:



    I would rank the spectacle of this mornings uprising of the cranes from the sand bars as one of the most breathtaking events I have ever had the pleasure to witness.



    I think that if anyone has ever questioned what God's favorite song is - what is that holy "hum" or divine melody that all of the redeemed will utter compulsively at the sight of His majesty?



    I believe it may resemble this song:



    The song of a thousand songs to the percussion of wings beating on the morning air combined into what I only know to describe as a "sacred scream". That moment in time when no individual notes can be heard. The low and the high voices - the trills and staccatos all melding together to form one penetrating, feverish, soul piercing cry.



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