Outdoor notes: First sandhill cranes arrive in Nebraska for ‘a little homecoming party’

Outdoor notes: First sandhill cranes arrive in Nebraska for ‘a little homecoming party’
World-Herald News Service

LINCOLN — Attention “crane-iacs” — the annual arrival of sandhill cranes in central Nebraska has begun.

The first cranes of the year were spotted Sunday at Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon and in a farm field near Wood River.

It’s the second straight year that the cranes have landed earlier than their normal, mid-February arrival date, according to Anne Winkel, a spokeswoman for Audubon Nebraska, which operates the bird-watching sanctuary on the Platte River.

“It’s exciting when they come back. It’s a little homecoming party,” Winkel said.

About 600,000 sandhill cranes stop along the central Platte River to feed and rest before continuing their migration northward as far as Canada and Siberia. It has been called the “world’s last greatest migration” and is the largest gathering on the planet of the 4-foot-tall gray birds, known for their dancing and trumpeting calls.

The prime season for watching cranes is March 1 to April 10, drawing tens of thousands of “crane-iacs” — lovers of the big birds — to Nebraska.

Winkel said that there are still some openings for viewing blinds at the Rowe Sanctuary. The Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center near Wood River and Fort Kearny State Recreation Area near Kearney also have viewing opportunities, and many crane lovers simply drive country roads along the Platte to view the cranes feeding in nearby farm fields.

There’s also a festival for true crane-iacs. Audubon Nebraska’s Crane Festival is scheduled March 21-24, with field trips, speakers and other events scheduled in Kearney and at Rowe Sanctuary.

David Mizejewski, a television personality, author, and naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation, is the keynote speaker at the March 23 banquet.

For more information about the Crane Festival, call the Rowe Sanctuary at 1-308-468-5282 or visit the website: http://ne.audubon.org/birds/crane-festival-registration.

Winkel said that Audubon has upgraded the technology on its “crane cam” that provides live video of a crane roosting spot. It can be accessed at http://rowe.audubon.org/birds/crane-cam.

Become a certified youth fishing instructor

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will certify youth fishing instructors March 10 and April 14 in Lincoln and May 8 in Kearney.

The Lincoln certifications will be at the Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, 4703 N. 44th St., from 2 to 6 p.m. The Kearney event will be held at the Fort Kearny State Historical Park Visitor Center from 6 to 9 p.m.

Fishing instructors will receive training and tools to conduct youth fishing clinics. These volunteers will have access to Nebraska Game and Parks’ loaner fishing equipment and educational materials for events, as well as receive program incentives. They also are encouraged to volunteer for such Game and Parks programs as Family Fishing Nights and the Outdoor Expos.

To reserve a spot in these free workshops, contact Larry Pape at larry.pape@nebraska.gov.

Archery paddlefish applications accepted March 1-14

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will accept archery paddlefish permit applications March 1-14.

The application period begins at 1 p.m. Central Time on March 1. Mail applications must be received in Game and Parks’ Lincoln office by 5 p.m. and online applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. on March 14.

A nonrefundable $7 fee is due at the time of application. The remaining fee to be paid if a permit is awarded – $26 for residents or $50 for nonresidents – is due within 15 days of draw notification. A valid phone number and email address are required.

Permits will be issued in a random drawing based on preference points earned; applicants with the most preference points will receive the greatest priority. Any permits remaining following the drawing will be sold on a first-come basis beginning at 1 p.m. on May 1.

An applicant will receive a preference point if he or she is not awarded a permit in the drawing. An additional preference point will be added each year he or she is unsuccessful in the drawing. Any person who is issued a paddlefish permit and any person who does not apply at least once during five consecutive years will lose all accumulated preference points.

Two people – both residents or both nonresidents – may submit a joint application. That application will be assigned to the applicant with the fewest preference points.

A person may have no more than two archery paddlefish permits per year: one earned via application and one bought over the counter. Permits and their accompanying tags are not transferable. Anyone fishing with an archery paddlefish permit also must have a valid Nebraska fish permit.

The 2019 archery paddlefish season is June 1-30. To apply for a permit, visit a Game and Parks office, OutdoorNebraska.org, or use a form in the 2019 Nebraska Fishing Guide.