Once again the eyes of the world are turning to the skies and fields near the Platte River to catch a rare glimpse of perhaps the area's most spectacular natural phenomena: the migration of the sandhill and whooping cranes.
More than 500,000 sandhill cranes converge in and around the Platte River each March to feed and rest before continuing on to their northern breeding grounds. The spectacle draws viewers from around the world to witness this unique occurrence.
At Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center north of Juniata, staff is in full swing during what is always its busiest time of the year. More than 20,000 people from around the world are expected to converge on the center to experience the spectacle up close and personal.
For Jeff Oates, director of marketing and development for Crane Trust, the much-anticipated arrival of cranes in the area is truly a stimulating experience. It is for this fleeting month or so that he and the rest of the staff at Crane Trust work so diligently the rest of the calendar year to make the migration season all it can be for the birds and those who watch them.
"This really is a special time of year," Oates said. "We work year-round to preserve and maintain the habitat for the cranes. So when they come back and stage in the spring and we hear them call, it really is exciting, a reminder that we're doing it for a good cause."