A new stamp from the U.S. Postal Service celebrates one of the greatest bird spectacles in North America — the annual convergence of Sandhill Cranes on Nebraska’s Platte River valley. The stamp, which will be issued on March 1, the state’s 150th anniversary, features a photograph of cranes flying low over the river at sunset. Nebraska photographer and conservationist Michael Forsberg took the photograph sometime around the year 2000.
During their annual spring migration to northern breeding grounds, half a million of the maroon-capped cranes arrive along the Platte from their winter homes in Arizona, California, Florida, Mexico, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah. They remain for a few weeks to rest and refuel — the largest gathering of cranes anywhere in the world.
“For this photo, I wanted an image that pulled back and tied together the river, prairie, sunset, and cranes flying through the frame,” Forsberg says. “It required scouting a blind location weeks in advance of their passage.”
He constructed his small one-man blind of garden fence and hay and left it in place for weeks, undisturbed, to blend naturally into the riverbank, unnoticeable to the cranes. Clad in a camouflage suit from head to toe and armed with a wide-angle lens and sleeping bag, he would get into the blind in the afternoon while birds were away feeding and remain ready, before they flew in near sunset. He would not leave until after they flew away the next morning.
“It’s not unusual to go days without getting the shot you want,” he says. “Wildlife photography is a profession where you accept failure on a regular basis, and it requires patience, persistence, and a lot of luck. It took me most of the month of March to finally make this photo.”
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