Geiser: Get outside for spring birding adventures | Columnists | – North Platte Telegraph

Ibis and dowitchers are two of the migrating bird species that can be viewed on wetlands and flooded fields this spring. There are many opportunities to venture outside for birding adventures this spring.
Now is a spectacular time to get outside and see nature’s beauty as winter colors change to springs’ glory, bringing with it, the spring bird migration, nesting and mating rituals.
Sandhill cranes are still in our area and some birds are giving viewers an up close and personal look as the long-legged birds forage for food near roadways. The cranes bring awesome sights and sounds as flocks soar and land in the fields and meadows in the Platte Valley. Their calls fill the air as they fly the river looking for a place to roost on the sandbars for the night. Make it a point to get outside soon to see the great migrating flocks before they begin to make their way to their northern breeding grounds.
Soon, many cranes will assemble and start their journey to northern breeding grounds; others may get the itch to fly as the weather warms. With their bellies full of crucial nutrition for breeding they wait for the south winds to blow, urging them into flight. I for one feel blessed to be in their presence once again. And as they depart their crucial stop-over in our state, I find myself looking forward to their return next spring.
Ducks and geese are using area Interstate 80 lakes, flooded fields and reservoirs as they search for food, mates and for some, areas to nest. The colors of the male ducks, or drakes this time of year is magnificent, and their courtships are never boring.
Some mating Canada geese are already on their nests, as the females incubate eggs, and the males guard the nest. Others might still be looking for that perfect nesting site to call home until their goslings hatch. Either way, watching geese in anticipation for the young to hatch is a great learning experience for all ages. City parks and area reservoirs are great places to watch spring hatchings take place.
Spring turkey displays are another sight to see. What fabulous sounds and sights can be seen during this time as toms display and put on a show for the hens — all trying to gain ground over the other for rights to breed. Hearing the morning gobbles from waking toms in the trees and the flight as they come down out of the roost is unmistakable. After that, the sounds of the strut, drumming or booming as they flair their feathers out and fan their tails, dragging their wings in full display is a common sound in the woods and one that hunters and bird watchers admire.
Pelicans are another great white bird that will soon be in our area. Watching these birds in flight with their heads cocked back holding their large bills majestically as they land in the water with a splash. Pelicans will work together pushing schools of fish in a circle where they can all dip their bills in the water for a meal.
When the birds are combing an area and one pelican does score a tasty morsel, the fight is on as other pelicans fly in to attempt to steal the meal or to score some fish for themselves. Watching these birds swim, fly and fish is an amazing sight this time of year. Harlan Reservoir, Johnson Lake, Lake Maloney and Sutherland Reservoir are great places to watch and learn about these big birds along with many other bird species.
These are only an example of all the birds that are around right now; many other migrating birds will soon follow. Birds like ibis, yellow-legs, avocets, godwits, curlews and others will make their way back to Nebraska. Public areas are not far away or hard to find, so get outside, take a relaxing drive and enjoy all the things going on around us during the spring birding season.
Prairie-chicken viewing
If you have never seen or heard of prairie chicken mating dances on a lek, which are established areas where male prairie chickens gather to attract females to breed, you are in for a treat. If you don’t mind getting up early in the morning, going to see this sight is one that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Prairie-chickens are an overlooked native species that put on a great mating show. Males will drum their feet and strut in their territory while keeping other males away in their attempts to attract a female. The males have brightly colored air sacs on the sides of their necks that they inflate and “ear-like” pinnae feathers that they raise and lower during their dances.
A free viewing blind is available at the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Project or NCORPE property southwest of North Platte. Those wishing to view prairie chickens from this blind need to contact Kyle Shepherd at 308-534-6752 or email for information and reservations.
Other locations in Nebraska that offer viewing opportunities for the public include the Bessey Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey, 308-533-2257, and the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge near Valentine, 402-376-1889.
Visitors to all areas are encouraged to arrive at blinds set up on display grounds an hour and a half before sunrise; visitors should stay until the displays are finished, usually two-to-three hours after sunrise to lessen the disturbance of the birds. Lights and flashes on mobile devises or cameras should not be used and all sounds should be muted.
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Ibis and dowitchers are two of the migrating bird species that can be viewed on wetlands and flooded fields this spring. There are many opportunities to venture outside for birding adventures this spring.
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