After seeing many posts about the fantastic wildlife encounters at Heron Haven Nature Center, I decided to visit. This small urban wetland sanctuary is located right in the middle of the city of Omaha, Nebraska. At first, I was disappointed that I did not hear the sounds of birds singing since heavy traffic and the sound of children screaming from the ball fields down the road drowned them out. But then I realized the noise that I considered a negative camouflaged the people on the sanctuary trail and is most likely the secret sauce for what makes Heron Haven so great.
They have an excellent photography blind on a pond at the end of a short trail. The day I visited, the nesting Canada Geese entertained me on the island in the center of the pond. A Great Blue Heron flew across my path and perched in a tree at the edge of the pond, grooming himself, while a Great Egret posed atop a bush over the water doing the same. In addition, there were at least a dozen Northern Shovelers swimming about while turtles sunned themselves on a log nearby. That alone was enough for any nature lover to consider the day a success! I might add that this was all happening simultaneously and was not the accumulated sights of many hours of observation.
What happened next, I never would have expected in a million years! Of course, it had been going on for a while. But, there were so many more exciting birds to observe; I didn't comprehend the rarity of the moment until it was almost too late. A pair of Canada Geese had swum away from the group. They were performing courtship behavior and eventually mated right in front of the blind!
One of America's Newest National Byways
There are very few places left in America that are so pristine that they have been virtually untouched by man. Nebraska Highway 2, AKA Sandhills Journey National Scenic Byway, is one such place. Located in the north-central section of Nebraska, the Sandhills cover a little more than a quarter of the state. This 272-mile long National Byway starts in Grand Island and ends in Alliance, passing through the middle of an area of world-class natural wonders. It’s home to the completely hand-planted Nebraska National Forest, the Loup River, abundant wetlands created by the Ogallala Aquifer, and brilliant night skies. Being in the Central Flyway for migratory birds, it’s teeming with wildlife, and you can’t forget the Spring Migration of the Sandhill Cranes.
The Nebraska Sandhills is a place of wide-open spaces where undulating windswept dunes have been stabilized by a sea of prairie grass that only has a fragile hold on the land, and where cowboy hats and cowboy boots are a way of life and not just a fashion statement.
In the western portion of the state of Nebraska you’ll find Western Trails Scenic and Historic Byway. This is a historic 144 mile route from Ogallala to the Wyoming border that roughly follows the path the pioneers took almost 200 years ago. While there is much to see and do here, I have chosen the amazing geological formations that those brave pioneers saw along the way to be the topic of this post.
National Geographic calls the spring migration of the Sandhill Cranes through central Nebraska “one of the greatest wildlife phenomena in North America”. If you are a birder, a wildlife photographer or just a nature lover, I really consider this a “must do” for your bucket list!
In 2017, I was lucky enough to spend the entire migration season in Nebraska with the Sandhill Cranes. It had been on my bucket list for quite some time. I had gotten a small taste of it about 10 years ago when my husband completed a 2 month assignment in Grand Island. That year, we left at the beginning of March when the cranes were just starting to arrive but what I saw in those first few weeks literary blew my mind!
I am the 8th photographer in 4 generations of my family. Back in 2006, my husband accepted a job traveling, and I jumped at the chance to go with him.
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