Friday, February 29, 2008

Sandhill Cranes and Bluebirds!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Whoever heard of a birding festival focused on both sandhill cranes and bluebirds?

Um. Some friends of ours in Nebraska who LOVE bluebirds and who also happen to live near the world's largest spring gathering of sandhill cranes.

When Steve and Cheryl Eno contacted us way back in 2006 about speaking in Nebraska for a festival in the spring of 2008, we said "sure!" Then I asked Steve what kind of festival it was going to be? We'd been out to other events the Enos had been involved in, namely a 2003 North American Bluebird Association convention held in Kearney. It was well-run and well-attended and lots of fun.

"Oh you know, there'll be some bluebird stuff and we were thinking about including the cranes, too!"

I remember thinking "Gee those are some pretty different birds and I'm not sure you'll attract a lot of the normal birding festival goers with them." There are other events devoted to sandhill cranes after all. And bluebird enthusiasts are a breed apart, hence the name Bluebird Nation.

But I should have known those Nebraskans would pull it off. I mean I've seen Steve and Cheryl's house, which Steve built out of bricks, and farm, which is devoted to animals of many varieties. The basement rooms are given over to bluebird houses that people have sent to Steve for review and potential approval as suitable for bluebirds to nest in. And the barn workshop is, well, let's just say if Steve lined up every bluebird house he's built and given away through the thriving Bluebirds Across Nebraska organization, they'd likely stretch across the whole Conhusker State. In fact they probably nearly already do.

This is NOT your normal birding festival. It's better. It's more down-home and relaxed.
You should come! It's right around the corner: March 6 to 9, 2008, in charming Kearney, Nebraska.

Here are three reasons to come to Kearney for the Sandhill Crane & Bluebird Festival next week:

1. If you have never seen several hundred thousand sandhill cranes take off from a river against a pink dawn sky, you are missing out on one of birding's most amazing experiences.

2. Al Batt will be speaking. Al is both the funniest and the tallest man I know. His stories make me laugh until my ribs ache and the runzas come out of my nose.

3. You will have the chance to eat a local food item called a runza.

4. OK I lied. I've got more than three reasons. There are prairie chicken leks nearby.

5. If you have a question about bluebirds (and who doesn't) several of the continent's Bluebird Oracles will be at this event.

6. Live music every day.

7. Live auction of truly one-of-a-kind items, some of which defy labeling.

8. You will learn how to pronounce Kearney.

9. Did I mention runzas?

10. The cranes and bluebirds will miss you.

I hope to see you there.


On February 29, 2008 at 12:54 AM clwriter said...

Hi Bill! Thanks for the great photos of the sandhill cranes and Bluebirds!

Some advice, please... I know it is still quite early, but I am planning a trip for March 15-23. I will be in Ohio for a few days. What are some good spots to see birds near Oberlin and Wooster, OH? (Son is visiting colleges!) A big adventure for us both!


On February 29, 2008 at 7:03 AM Anonymous said...

I found a web site with a picture of a runza. It is a restaurant review for a place in Lincoln, NE. Sorry I could not find one for Kearney.

On February 29, 2008 at 7:04 AM Anonymous said...

Oops, it got chopped. If you put these bits back together....

On February 29, 2008 at 12:07 PM Anonymous said...

You forgot the best part, it's in Nebraska. Wish I could go. I'm stuck here on the right coast.

There is no place like Nebraska.

On February 29, 2008 at 12:11 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Dear clwriter.

If you are going to be in Wooster, you gotta go to Funk Bottoms WMA.

Here's the link (copy and paste it) from the Ohio Ornithological Society's website:

Other sites can be found at

On February 29, 2008 at 12:12 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Thx for the Runza pix! Yum!

On February 29, 2008 at 4:56 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

You neglect to mention, even in passing, that you and your wife will be speaking and performing at said festival. Which, in my opinion, is taking your aversion to self-promotion to new heights. Cabbage-stuffed loosemeat calzones get top billing, huh?

On February 29, 2008 at 5:53 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Well, I did not want to come off as a sandwich-board man advertising our own festival appearances. I thought BOTB readers might well go visit the website and discover the nice array of speakers on tap.

But maybe this is better:
Julie Zickefoose and Bill Thompson, III are each giving two presentations at the festival AND performing live music as the opening act for Al Batt at the Friday night banquet.

On February 29, 2008 at 6:23 PM Dea said...

Ah, what a beeyoooootiful bluebird picture! Sure wish we had these guys out West.

On February 29, 2008 at 6:25 PM Dea said...

Come to think of it, sure wish we had Thompsons and Zickefooses out West, too. Do you and Julie ever visit birding festivals or otherwise tour the Northwest?

On March 1, 2008 at 6:42 AM Bill of the Birds said...

Hi Dea:

Yes we sometimes get out West. I think I'm speaking in San Diego next March.

BTW, Does this mean you are now in the Far West instead of the Far East?

Thx for the comments!

On March 2, 2008 at 10:01 PM Dea said...

BT3 - yes, I am back in the Far West, continuing my legal education on Vancouver Island. I am hoping to do a stint up north this summer (Northwest Territories or Nunuvut!) If I do, then I will certainly take up the blog again. Right now.... just too busy.

The Birding here is great! Did you know it's the only place in North America to see Eurasian Skylarks? And they are just composed of of sheer awesomeness? Singing as they spiral higher and higher? Sadly, their numbers are dwindling dangerously close to extirpation. P'raps you and family may wish to take a leetle trip to come see them...

I was hoping Northwest as in Seattle area. San Diego is lovely. I hope you have a lovely trip.

On March 16, 2008 at 12:43 AM clwriter said...

Thanks for the Funk Bottoms Link! (BTW, son just got his acceptance for College of Wooster!)