My first overnight stay in a photo blind within the middle of nature, specifically the Wildlife phenomena of the Annual Sandhill Crane Migration where 80% of the World's Crane population converge on a 10 mile stretch of the Platte River Valley.
Dropped off basically in the middle of nowhere to crash in a Wildlife Photog 5 Star Hotel, right next to action on the Platte River where the Cranes have been Roosting.
The 5 Star Hotel measured 5' 8" tall, 5' 8" deep and 8' long, simply sitting on the dirt with a flooring of hay. I had 3 choices of hotels, I chose the middle one just in case the cranes were partial to one side I didn't want to simply not get any shots. I brought all my "gear" including my Adidas Sambas, Pink Lemonade Monster drink, Clif Bars, a thermal sleeping bag and boots in case it got too cold at night.
I went in the blind about 4pm and could hear the sounds of the Cranes all over the place but had only viewed them at a distance while they were feeding in the corn fields. Toyed a bit with photogin' some ducks and other wildlife here and there waiting patiently for the evening chaos when the Cranes start their way to the river. As dusk started to fall, I could see the Cranes coming in now; unfortunately they were looking to crash just in front of the 3rd blind to my left...damn, good thing I didn't chose the 1st Hotel! Cranes were getting louder now but I continued to shoot as best as I could.
Activity increased immensely after about 10 minutes, they were coming from everywhere! I completely forgot I was doing and became mesmerized watching and listening; absolutely indescribable. Finally shook my noggin' and continued doing my thing with photogin'.
Although the Cranes were further to my left, had I chosen the 3rd blind I would've missed the absolute phenomenal sunset in the background, which I used to my advantage.
Contrary to what my eyes witnessed, apparently there aren't many Cranes right now as they are arriving later than usual; according to the scientist at Cranes Trust either due to the cold or the moon patterns.
Later in the month, apparently there won't be enough space for all of them so they'd be directly in front of me regardless of their choosing.
Honestly, going into this whole thing I was a tad bit nervous...out in the middle of nowhere, no electricity, heat or anyone around except maybe a Mountain Lion, a Loonie or even possibly Bigfoot? ;) Once the gorgeous sunset I was treated to finally went down, I closed up the blind wooden windows and inserted myself into the thermal sleeping bag simply listened to the sounds of the Cranes...all night long! Pretty amazing to say the least and I didn't get freaked out by the pitch blackness surrounding me.
Even though my 6' frame was stretched out in the 5' 8" inch floor bed I actually didn't sleep too bad. Probably from 10pm - 2am when it finally got cold enough to put my winter coat, lid and gloves on. Went back to sleep until 3:40am which is funny because that's the "normal time" I usually get up every day anyway. I reviewed pics from night before and was feeling pretty good, but was anxious for the sun to unveil was happening on the river in front of me.
As the sun TRIED to peak through the clouds that the horrendous winds brough in about 5am, I could see some action in front of me but zero magic light this morning. Given I'm pretty good at playing the hand I'm dealt, I started up the gear and started firing the shutter at the action.
They came and pulled me from the blind about 9:30am, they must wait for all the Cranes to leave as to not spook them and impact their natural migration patterns.
I then had the pleasure of a special VIP tour of the entire Crane Trust grounds by good friend Chuck Cooper who is CEO of Crane Trust. Acres and acres of natural prairie including Buffalo and tons of history. The Crane Trust is a non-profit organization devoted to protection and enhancement of habitats for whooping cranes, sandhill cranes and other migratory birds along the Big Bend Region of the Platte River Valley in Nebraska.
I've lived in Nebraska all my life and have never once witnessed The Sandhill Crane Migration or all the natural prairie that exists along the Platte River Valley. While I was blessed with some nice shots from the experience, the biggest thing I've taken away from this journey or expedition was actually how much I've actually been In The Blind.
Take some time out of your crazy busy lives, seek and enjoy the solitude of natures natural phenomena and pay a visit to the Cranes Trust located at 9325 South Alda Road, Wood River, NE 68883 Exit 305 I-80 heading west.