Crane viewing at Rowe Sanctuary during the fall migration is very hit and miss as the timing of the migration is spread out over a longer period of time and the fact that most of the cranes just pass overhead without stopping. The following will try to give you a better idea of when and where a person can try to see the cranes in Nebraska during the fall and provide you with other locations that have crane viewing opportunities.
Even though sandhill cranes stage in the Platte River valley in large numbers during the spring migration, this is not the case in the fall. During the months of September and October, cranes stage in areas of eastern Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, North Dakota, South Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. The earliest we typically see (or hear) cranes is late September, with the peak of the migration occurring from late October through early November and ending sometime in December. During this time the cranes rarely stay for an extended period, usually just over night.
Rowe Sanctuary is a location where a person can try to see the cranes during the fall, but we do not have guided field trips as we don't know when or where the birds might be. Visitors are welcome to walk our walking trails that lead from the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center in the early morning and late afternoon to try to catch the birds on or near the river. You can access these trails seven days a week, except during rifle deer season which occurs in the second week of November. Send us an email or give us a call at 308-468-5282 with questions about viewing at Rowe Sanctuary or to find out the status of the migration.
Other locations that are relatively close to Rowe Sanctuary that provide reasonably good opportunities to see the cranes are located in the Rainwater Basin. This area is characterized by shallow wetlands that become wet, you guessed it, when it rains. When these areas have water during the fall, cranes will use them quite frequently. The only drawback is that these areas are open to waterfowl hunting and if there is shooting going on, the cranes will look elsewhere to spend the night. For contact information to find out what locations have water and where hunting pressure is the least, visit the web site provided above.
Other locations where sandhill cranes can be seen during the fall migration (F) or on their wintering grounds (W) include:
Cibola National Wildlife Refuge (W)
Willcox Playa Wildlife Area (W)
Monte Vista/Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge (F)
Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area (F)
Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area (F)
Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge (F)
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (F)
Baker Sanctuary (F)
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (W)
Grulla National Wildlife Refuge (W)
Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge (W)
Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge (F)
Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge (W)
Washita National Wildlife Refuge (W)
Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge (W)
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (W)
Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (W)
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (W)