By Lydia Quiring


In "Those of the Gray Wind", the Spring portion of the book is based on the time when the cranes travel to the Platte and about the Platte Valley Spring. In the book, it starts off talking about the harsh winds and cold weather, which was apparent to me when I visited the Platte. Even the short amount of time I was outside, my toes had gone numb and my ears were red. It made me think about how we as humans are not made for the cold and how uniquely built the cranes are for such harsh weather.

When the cranes land at the Platte, the book gives a brief description on where they land, but also the danger of landing. While at Rowe Sanctuary I got to see the land of the Platte first hand, but the book was based back in the 1860 when the Platte was wider, and had less vegetation than now. We compared the difference of the Platte then and the Platte now. The difference was huge in a lot of the Platte, but the 80 mile stretch of land where the cranes stay is the most similar to how it used to be. It was a shock to see how much we lost since then and it makes me wonder how life would have been if it had not changed.

In the book, a small crane gets lost trying to land and crashes into the river. I did not see any of that while at Rowe Sanctuary, but the danger was there: the danger of the power lines, the possibility of getting left behind (like in a storm), or the difficulty of getting sucked into the low river (because cranes can't swim).

Finally, this part of the book shows the instinct all the cranes have to leave the Platte river and head further north; an instinct bred into them and also taught to them. I learned at the sanctuary that cranes learn everything they know from their parents.

Platte River

This is a picture of the Platte River and Cranes sitting on it.


During the Summer portion of "Those of the Gray Wind", the cranes take their hardest stretch of the journey to the Artic where their nesting grounds are. I of course haven't been able to see these nesting grounds, but the book describes their journey to Northern Canada, Alaska and Siberia. The book describes the younger cranes growing from their time in the Platte, and the adults also gain a lot of their body weight at the Platte. While at the Sactuary, the guide told us that they gain 20% of their body weight during their time at the Platte. The reason for this drastic increase is because during their last flight to the nesting ground there will be little food. Once they reach the nesting ground they build their nests and take turns sitting on it. There is little food here and the danger that could harm the egg makes the parents reluctant to leave the nest. The book describes these dangers through a story about a boy hunting the river bed for crane eggs which are a delicacy to their people. But seeing that he was too late, for the eggs had already hatched, he took his bow and was about to shoot the adult crane. Before he could, the cranes seemed to dance around the nest. Seeing this, the boy felt compasion and didn't kill the birds. Another danger that can harm the cranes, I learned while at the Sanctuary. It was called "fracticide", which is when the older colt kills the younger colt. An average crane will lay two eggs each a few days from the other. The oldest crane will pick on the younger, taking its food and sometimes pushing it out of the nest. This can result in the death of the younger crane.


Cranes mate for life normally, but they will leave each other on rare occasions, for example if they are unable to produce a colt. Each mated pair will usually have two eggs at a time, and they raise that colt, teaching it all it needs to know. After awhile, the colts will leave and join another group of colts. To keep the eggs from breaking during the nesting periods, they eat alot of snails during their time at the Platte; the calcium in the snail shells help keep the egg strong.

Habitats and Food

The cranes stop at the Platte river for two main reasons; for the food and the protection of the river. Long ago, the Platte used to be all the same, wide, shallow and void of all vegetation, and that drew the cranes in. Now only a small section of the river is like the river of the old. The 80 mile stretch by Rowe Sactuary is the most like the old river. The reason why the cranes like the old river so much is because it gives them a sense of protection. They can't sleep in trees because of their short 4th toe, but the bare and wide river will alert them to any oncoming predators. The food around this area is corn, snails, and small animals. The cranes go up north to Canada for one main reason; for protection. The cold landscape is lacking many predators that can harm their eggs.

Reflection on Rowe Sanctuary

While visiting Rowe Sanctuary, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about cranes; some information I already knew and some new information, too. I got to experience what the cranes live through when they stay at the Platte River, while I was out in the blind; like the cold and the wind, but also the beautiful sounds and scenery. I got to see the cranes close up and hear their calls, and also see the Platte from a different view. These things I doubt I would be able to see anyplace else . I'm glad I got to spend time at Rowe Sanctuary, even with the early leaving time and the harsh weather. It was a great opportunity to learn about cranes, and I would like to go again someday.


All pictures taken by Gina Grady. All information came from previous knowledge, what I learned from the brilliant Mr. Regier, or from information from the Rowe Sanctuary. Also I learned from the book, "Those of the Great Wind", which I read, thanks to Mrs. Ohrt.

Thank you for reading my Smore. Have a good day!