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Mid-March through early April, greater Sandhill cranes gather to rest and refuel along the North Platte River from Lake McConaughy to Oshkosh, at times numbering over 20,000.
One of the best places to view the cranes’ evening fly-in is the old Lewellen bridge, located just a half mile south of Lewellen, NE. In daytime, cranes can be spotted from the county roads north of the main highway between Lemoyne and Lewellen, as they gather in the corn fields and meadows north of the river.
(Thank you to Jean Jensen of the Most Unlikely Place for sharing this beautiful picture of cranes on the Platte.)
Due to habitat diversity, Keith County, Nebraska is considered “the best place in the state and the third best in the country to go birding,” according to noted ornithologist and author Dr. Paul Johnsgard, UNL Professor Emeritus. Our location on central migration flyways and proximity to large bodies of water add up to ideal conditions for birds. More than 360 species have been identified in the area, with over 100 breeding species. Spring and fall migration time are especially good opportunities to spot Sandhill cranes, white pelicans, ducks, geese, and shore birds. Check the Lake McConaughy Birding Trails Map and Bird Species Checklist to get started.
The lake region is also the best place in the state to view America’s national bird, the bald eagle. Eagles gather in large numbers during the winter months below Kingsley Dam on Lake Ogallala. The Kingsley Hydroplant creates open water, which allows the eagles to fish for food. Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District maintains a public eagle viewing facility below the south end of Kingsley Dam.
Eagle photos courtesy of Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigiation District.