Speakers Retunr to Nature Center

Wood River, Neb—The Crane Trust will feature two exciting presentations by a popular pair of leading researchers and conservationists this Saturday, March 8, at the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center, as part of its Wild About Nebraska Speaker Series. The Saturday program will include Dr. Paul Johnsgard and the Crane Trust's own director of science, Dr. Mary Harner.

A new crane-viewing blind is also being unveiled this weekend by the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center, with unprecedented panoramas of cranes roosting and traveling the river. Guided tour reservations for the new blind are required and can be obtained online at NebraskaNature.org or by calling 308-382-1820. Construction of the new blind was made possible with a charitable gift from the Thomas & Faye Conlon Fund of the Grand Island Community Foundation.

"This Saturday we have a terrific double-header for crane lovers and nature enthusiasts alike," says Jeff Oates, Crane Trust Director of Marketing and Outreach. "I can't think of a better way for people to celebrate the beginning of this year's great sandhill crane migration."

"Exceptionally cold and unforgiving weather has delayed the migration a bit, but the dam is breaking, with warmer weather on the way and more and more cranes arriving every day," says Oates. "In addition to our speakers, the Crane Trust is also christening its new public viewing blind on the river, with incredible, never-before seen panoramic vistas on the river."

The first presentation on March 8 is by Dr. Paul Johnsgard, world-renowned ornithologist, author, and UNL professor and will start at 11:00 a.m. Its title is "Sandhill Cranes and Other Spring Birds of the Platte" and will draw upon Dr. Johnsgard's many decades of study and observations up and down the Central Flyway.

The second presentation on Saturday March 8 is by Dr. Mary Harner will start at 12:30 p.m. and is titled "An Inside Look at Sandhill Cranes on Mormon Island & the Platte River." As Crane Trust Director of Science, Dr. Harner overseas the design and implementation of all research on Crane Trust lands. She also heads the Crane Trust's innovative new conservation and training program called REACH, short for Research Experience to Achieve Conservation of Habitat.

The following weekend, the Wild About Nebraska Speaker series will feature Blake Hatfield and his "Nebraska Birds of Prey", courtesy of Fontenelle Forest's Raptor Recovery Program.

Saturday March 8, 2014
11:00am: "Sandhill Cranes and Other Spring Birds of the Platte"
Dr. Paul Johnsgard's talk will concentrate on the chronology of the spring migration in the Platte valley, the social structure of the flock, and pair–family components. He will talk about pair lengths and pair bonding, and the importance for the Platte in providing the food stores needed for the following breeding season. He will also touch on the increasingly important influence of snow geese on limiting the major food sources of the cranes.

Saturday March 8, 2014
12:30pm: "An Inside Look at Cranes on Historic Mormon Island and the Platte"
Dr. Mary Harner's talk will begin with an overview of the Crane Trust's three-year study of overwintering cranes along the central Platte River. She will also talk about the Crane Trust's monitoring of sandhill crane roosts along Platte River, with powerful new mapping of bird numbers and roost locations, including the first two weeks of March 2014.

Dr. Harner will conclude with an astonishing look at crane behavior on Mormon Island and other carefully managed areas as it has never been seen before, including time-lapse videos and an overview of new directions/camera placements for the future.

Saturday March 15, 2014
11:00 a.m. "Nebraska's Amazing Birds of Prey"
Blake Hatfield of Fontenelle's Raptor Recovery Program will demonstrate with live birds how these incredible predators of the sky have adapted to become a vital part of the Nebraska landscape. Each has its own special place in the uniquely complex Platte River ecosystem. Blake will bring a live hawk, falcon, owl, and turkey vulture for his presentation and will demonstrate how well equipped they are to inhabit their space atop the food chain.

All presentations are open to the public and are being held at the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center near Wood River in south-central Nebraska, I-80 Alda Exit 305. Before and after the presentations, visitors can browse the Center's art gallery and gift shop or take a short walk to see the live bison exhibition herd, climb the observation tower and hike out onto the prairie. The Crane Trust's large touchscreen communication displays, featuring the Platte Basin Time-Lapse Project and other videos, will also be on hand for visitors to experience.

Established in 1978, the Crane Trust is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and maintenance of critical habitat for cranes and other migratory birds along the Platte River through leading science, habitat management, community outreach, and education.