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BEGINS IN: KEARNEY, NEBRASKA

Birding the Plains and Sandhills of Nebraska: Cranes and Grouse

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Road Scholar
Program #1259RJ
6 Days | 5 Nights
ACTIVITY LEVEL: Moderate
Love to learn in a small-group setting? This collection of programs has at most 10-24 participants.
See our Small Group programs.
EasyFor people looking to exercise their minds more than their bodies. There’s minimal walking and not too many stairs.
ModerateThese programs get you on your feet and include activities such as walking up to a mile in a day through a city and standing in a museum for a few hours.
ActiveFor people who enjoy walking as much as two miles a day, perhaps to explore historic neighborhoods or a nature trail.
Moderately ChallengingFor hardy explorers who enjoy a good physical challenge, spending most of their days on the go.
ChallengingGet ready to keep up with our highest-energy group. These demanding — and rewarding — programs are for seasoned outdoor enthusiasts.
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Itinerary for Mar 23 — Mar 28, 2014

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Type: Hotel

Description: Within walking distance to restaurants.

Contact info:
104 Talmadge
Kearney, NE 68847 USA
phone: 308-698-3003
web: www.microtelinn.com/

Facility amenities: Free High Speed Wireless Internet Available In All Areas Free Local and Long Distance Calls Guest Laundry Free 24hr Self Serve Business Center 32 inch Flat Screen TV including Most major TV Channels including CNN, Fox News, HBO and ESPN Free Use of Printer, Copy and Fax Machine Non Smoking Rooms Exercise room with TV, Treadmill, Stair Climber, Egrometer and Gym-In-A-Bag Interior Corridors Elevator Microwave, Fridge and Sofa Bed Available In Some Rooms Disability Accessible Rooms- TTY Telephones and Auxiliary Aids Available Wheelchair Accessibility Pet Friendly Property Clock/Radio, Coffee Maker, Hairdryer and Workdesk Available in All Rooms Meeting Room With High Speed Internet Access Audio Visual Equipment- TV/DVD In Meeting Room Wake Up Call Service 24hr Front Desk Free Local Newspaper Available / USA Today Available Dataports, Message Alerts and Modem or Second Phone Line Security Features include Electronic Lock, Extra Lighting, Smoke Detectors, Sprinkler System and Safe Deposit Box

Smoking policy: No
Smoking policies vary by facility. During all group events and activities, smoking is prohibited.

Elevator: Yes

Additional nights before: Call hotel for information
Call hotel for reservations

Check in time: 3:00 PM


Day One: Sunday, March 23 - Registration and Check In, settle into our lodgin...
Registration and Check In, settle into our lodgings for the next three nights and enjoy a welcome dinner. Orientation and Introductory Lecture

Afternoon: 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM Hotel check-in. Meet in hotel lobby at 5 pm for introductions followed by walking to dinner.

Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant

Evening: Orientation meeting to learn about the week's activities and introductions.

Lodging: Microtel Inn Hotel

Meals Included: Dinner
Type: Hotel

Description: Within walking distance to restaurants.

Contact info:
104 Talmadge
Kearney, NE 68847 USA
phone: 308-698-3003
web: www.microtelinn.com/

Facility amenities: Free High Speed Wireless Internet Available In All Areas Free Local and Long Distance Calls Guest Laundry Free 24hr Self Serve Business Center 32 inch Flat Screen TV including Most major TV Channels including CNN, Fox News, HBO and ESPN Free Use of Printer, Copy and Fax Machine Non Smoking Rooms Exercise room with TV, Treadmill, Stair Climber, Egrometer and Gym-In-A-Bag Interior Corridors Elevator Microwave, Fridge and Sofa Bed Available In Some Rooms Disability Accessible Rooms- TTY Telephones and Auxiliary Aids Available Wheelchair Accessibility Pet Friendly Property Clock/Radio, Coffee Maker, Hairdryer and Workdesk Available in All Rooms Meeting Room With High Speed Internet Access Audio Visual Equipment- TV/DVD In Meeting Room Wake Up Call Service 24hr Front Desk Free Local Newspaper Available / USA Today Available Dataports, Message Alerts and Modem or Second Phone Line Security Features include Electronic Lock, Extra Lighting, Smoke Detectors, Sprinkler System and Safe Deposit Box

Smoking policy: No
Smoking policies vary by facility. During all group events and activities, smoking is prohibited.

Elevator: Yes

Additional nights before: Call hotel for information
Call hotel for reservations

Check in time: 3:00 PM


Day Two: Monday, March 24 - The Spectacle of “Crane Rise” on the Platte River...
The Spectacle of “Crane Rise” on the Platte River: Rowe Sanctuary Viewing Blinds

Breakfast: Microtel Breakfast Buffet including hot and cold items

Morning: In the very early morning hours we will experience our first “crane rise” as the “gray sandbar islands” of the Platte River turn into clouds of Sandhill cranes leaving their roost sites. Pre-dawn crane music turns into a crescendo of wake-up calls as the cranes awaken and leave their riverine roost sites. We will have reserved blinds at Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary for prime views of the cranes in areas along the river’s edge. With an expert crane naturalist from Audubon, we will experience the almost deafening chorus and clamor of tens of thousands of cranes taking flight toward the cornfields and prairies where they will forage during the day. After watching this exciting spectacle, we take time to view the displays at the sanctuary and to watch birds at the feeders: Harris, White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows, White-breasted Nuthatches, and possibly Red-bellied Woodpeckers. We also may find Green-winged Teal or some early migrating shorebirds feeding on the river’s mudflats, returning to Kearney for a “Brunch” in town.

Lunch: Restaurant meal

Afternoon: We will return to the Rowe Sanctuary in early afternoon for the resident biologist’s lecture on “Crane Habitat and Behavior. Then spend the remainder of the afternoon viewing more crane activity in the fields south of the Platte River. After an early dinner, we visit Fort Kearny State Park to learn more about the pioneers of the Oregon and Mormon Trails. In trees we look for wintering and resident passerine birds such as Cedar Waxwings, Northern Cardinals, and Bluejays, while keeping an eye out along the river for the majestic Bald Eagles that frequent the Platte. Then venture out at sunset to watch the cranes come into roost from the former railroad and now the walking bridge over the Platte

Dinner: Dinner at local restaurant

Evening: After a very early start and a long day, free to relax and prepare for tomorrow's adventure

Lodging: Microtel Inn Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Type: Hotel

Description: Within walking distance to restaurants.

Contact info:
104 Talmadge
Kearney, NE 68847 USA
phone: 308-698-3003
web: www.microtelinn.com/

Facility amenities: Free High Speed Wireless Internet Available In All Areas Free Local and Long Distance Calls Guest Laundry Free 24hr Self Serve Business Center 32 inch Flat Screen TV including Most major TV Channels including CNN, Fox News, HBO and ESPN Free Use of Printer, Copy and Fax Machine Non Smoking Rooms Exercise room with TV, Treadmill, Stair Climber, Egrometer and Gym-In-A-Bag Interior Corridors Elevator Microwave, Fridge and Sofa Bed Available In Some Rooms Disability Accessible Rooms- TTY Telephones and Auxiliary Aids Available Wheelchair Accessibility Pet Friendly Property Clock/Radio, Coffee Maker, Hairdryer and Workdesk Available in All Rooms Meeting Room With High Speed Internet Access Audio Visual Equipment- TV/DVD In Meeting Room Wake Up Call Service 24hr Front Desk Free Local Newspaper Available / USA Today Available Dataports, Message Alerts and Modem or Second Phone Line Security Features include Electronic Lock, Extra Lighting, Smoke Detectors, Sprinkler System and Safe Deposit Box

Smoking policy: No
Smoking policies vary by facility. During all group events and activities, smoking is prohibited.

Elevator: Yes

Additional nights before: Call hotel for information
Call hotel for reservations

Check in time: 3:00 PM


Day Three: Tuesday, March 25 - Harlan County Reservoir and Rainwater Basin: worl...
Breakfast: Microtel Breakfast Buffet including hot and cold items

Morning: Today we enjoy a more leisurely morning after yesterday’s early awakening. After breakfast, we drive south to Harlan County Reservoir with its excellent habitat for viewing a variety of waterfowl, shore birds, and resident raptors. There may be our first opportunity to view from a distance a Greater prairie Chicken Lek along the drive.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a delightful local café in Holdrege.

Afternoon: We drive through wetlands and ponds of the famous Rainwater Basin, one of the west’s most important areas for migrant waterfowl. Depending upon season and weather conditions, the sheer number of birds in these wetlands often defies the imagination in a wet year. We hope to find over a dozen species of waterfowl, and with luck we’ll find some of the thousands of wintering Snow and Ross’ Geese and perhaps a few White-fronted Geese still lingering there. We will scout a local prairie dog town looking for Burrowing owls. Then as we angle our way back through farm fields and roads, we have a chance to watch crane behavior in detail. Watch for pair bonding activities, dancing, strutting, feeding, resting, and other flock dynamics.

Dinner: We eat an early dinner at a local restaurant.

Evening: Our evening is free to pack for our two night stay at Calamus Ranch.

Lodging: Microtel Inn Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Type: Lodge

Description: Calamus Outfitters is a family owned business providing outdoor recreational activities for people of all ages. Activities such as bird watching, upland bird hunting, deer hunting, tubing, tanking and swimming in the Calamus river, horseback riding and photography are available for your enjoyment. A fourth generation cattle operation, Calamus Outfitters is located on the Switzer Ranch, and it is located in the north central Nebraska Sandhills. Blessed with abundant native grasses and ample underground and surface water, the Switzer ranch is truly located in "God's Cow Country".

Contact info:
83720 Valleyview Ave.
Burwell, NE 68823 USA
phone: 308-346-4697
web: www.calamusoutfitters.com/index.htm

Facility amenities: Let the Switzer family be your hosts as you make lasting memories on a true working ranch. Calamus Outfitters has two beautiful lodges that can accommodate approx. 20 people each as well as four rustic cabins that can each accommodate up to 6 people. Lodges each have 5 private rooms with 5 private baths, common area and full kitchen. Located just off Hwy 96 on the Calamus Reservoir.

Smoking policy: No
Smoking policies vary by facility. During all group events and activities, smoking is prohibited.


Day Four: Wednesday, March 26 - Prairie Chickens & Sharp-tailed Grouse, Bald Eagl...
Prairie Chickens & Sharp-tailed Grouse, Bald Eagle Concentrations & More!

Breakfast: Microtel Breakfast Buffet including hot and cold items

Morning: This morning after breakfast we check out of the Microtel. We visit the Platte River and the Whooping Crane Trust Visitor Center. There we will have an exiting visit from naturalists and rescued birds of the Raptor Recovery Center - Helping Nebraska's raptors. The birds they will bring are injured raptors that are being rehabilitated for release back into the wild. Learn and experience first hand their work. Then learn by lecture about the Central Flyway and the importance on preservation of Whooping Cranes and the related protection of the flyway.

Lunch: Restaurant meal enroute

Afternoon: We begin our trip north to Calamus Reservoir and accommodations at an ecotourism award-winning ranch. As we progress east along the Platte we observe Sandhill Cranes that feed in the fields for as far as the eye can see. We also look for the first migrant shorebirds to show up along the Platte River, and for early songbird migrants such as Eastern Bluebird and Eastern Phoebe. We may be fortunate to spot an early Whooping Crane, as we head north following a scenic route along the Loup River. We arrive at our lodgings on a private ranch near Calamus Reservoir at Taylor, NE in the afternoon, birding at Calamus Reservoir en route.

Dinner: Dinner will be catered in our lodge by ranch staff.

Evening: Enjoy hospitality, and in the evening, a chance to look and listen for Great Horned and Eastern Screech Owls.

Lodging: Calamus Outfitter at Switzer Ranch

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Type: Lodge

Description: Calamus Outfitters is a family owned business providing outdoor recreational activities for people of all ages. Activities such as bird watching, upland bird hunting, deer hunting, tubing, tanking and swimming in the Calamus river, horseback riding and photography are available for your enjoyment. A fourth generation cattle operation, Calamus Outfitters is located on the Switzer Ranch, and it is located in the north central Nebraska Sandhills. Blessed with abundant native grasses and ample underground and surface water, the Switzer ranch is truly located in "God's Cow Country".

Contact info:
83720 Valleyview Ave.
Burwell, NE 68823 USA
phone: 308-346-4697
web: www.calamusoutfitters.com/index.htm

Facility amenities: Let the Switzer family be your hosts as you make lasting memories on a true working ranch. Calamus Outfitters has two beautiful lodges that can accommodate approx. 20 people each as well as four rustic cabins that can each accommodate up to 6 people. Lodges each have 5 private rooms with 5 private baths, common area and full kitchen. Located just off Hwy 96 on the Calamus Reservoir.

Smoking policy: No
Smoking policies vary by facility. During all group events and activities, smoking is prohibited.


Day Five: Thursday, March 27 - Prairie Chickens Booming! / Calamus Reservoir
Breakfast: Lodge hot breakfast after viewing

Morning: This morning we arise before dawn to be able to witness the spring courtship rites of Greater Prairie Chickens. By this time in March they have started their dawn-hour dancing and booming at lek (dancing ground) display sites. Sharp-tailed Grouse may also be displaying at these sites. With luck, we’ll also hear a dawn concert of Western Meadowlarks and watch Northern Harriers hunting near the lek site. Our hosts at Calamus Outfitters have set up a great system for observing Greater Prairie Chickens at close range. Our blind is an old school bus and the birds are right outside the windows! By 8:00 – 9:00 AM, activity at the lek will diminish and we return to the ranch for a delicious hot breakfast. After a break, we drive around Calamus Reservoir, stopping at various fishing access points, some with trails, to find a variety of birds. We are likely to see Bald Eagles and a good variety of ducks – all bright in breeding plumage. White Pelicans may pass as chevrons in the sky, and with luck we’ll find some of the first spring migrants such as Eastern Bluebirds or Eastern Phoebes.

Lunch: We enjoy a cafe lunch in town, sampling a bit of Nebraska rural life.

Afternoon: After the early morning rising, a nap or quiet time is likely in order for mid-afternoon. Late afternoon we take a drive up to a nearby creek where warm springs provide open water for waterfowl and Horned Larks feed on prairie hillsides that line the road. Wild Turkey and possible Long-eared Owls may be present on the ranch as well.

Dinner: As evening approaches we watch sunset over the prairie and enjoy dinner at our lodgings prepared by ranch staff.

Evening: Free to walk on ranch property and reflect on the week's adventures.

Lodging: Calamus Outfitter at Switzer Ranch

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day Six: Friday, March 28 - Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek / Departures
Depart From: Independent departures after morning viewing and driving back from Calamus Ranch to Kearney approximately 11:30 am.

Breakfast: Lodge hot breakfast after viewing

Morning: This morning we venture out early to witness the annual spring courtship rites of another elusive grassland species, the Sharp-tailed Grouse. It is remarkable to have displays of two species available for our viewing with such ease. It will be a great opportunity to compare the differences in behavior of the two species. The spring air is brisk, so we bundle up to drive out to another set of school bus blinds, and return again for a great hot breakfast. Killdeers call from the yard, and with luck we may have a Rough-legged Hawk pass by overhead. After breakfast, about 9 am, we will journey back to Kearney arriving about 11:30 am for independent departures.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Important information about your itinerary:
Please know that while we do everything we can to finalize all aspects of our programs well in advance, there are logistics that occasionally must be altered. Our website will reflect the most recent information, and we are committed to providing you with final program details no later than eight weeks prior to the start of programs outside the U.S. and three weeks prior to the start of programs within the U.S. If you ever have questions about your program, please don't hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to assist you.
Currently selected:Prices Starting At:
Mar 23 — Mar 28, 2014 waitlist only  

Our Value Promise To You

You won't find a better value.

Included
at no additional cost on this date ...
5 nights of accommodations
14 meals: 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 5 dinners
11 Expert-led lectures
10 Field trips
10 Hands-on experiences

Ratings

4.8
Ratings are determined by participant evaluations.

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