Neva Heikes will speak January 18 at the monthly Smoky Hills Audubon Program about the great Sandhill Crane migration through the Central Flyway. Heikes has been a past president of the Smoky Hills Audubon Society and graduated from the University of Nebraska – Kearney. Heikes has a degree in WIldlife biology and was first introduced to the annual migrations when taken to the Platte river by her father. She has followed the international interest in the mass migration her whole life and often attends the annual gathering of global personalities that follow the migration.
Each spring over a half million sandhill cranes cross through the area and congregate in Nebraska and on their way through the great central flyway. The Platte River Valley is the most significant stopover on the cranes’ long migration north from Texas, Oklahoma or Mexico. According to the Audubon website, like the migration of wildebeest in Africa and the march of the penguins in Antarctica, the seasonal movement of these graceful birds is a spectacular nature show. The region is so vital to the migration it has been designated an important area of global significance by the National Audubon Society.
Sandhill cranes are an elegant bird that draws immediate attention. The tall grey bodied birds wear a crimson cap that commands attention. They gather in open fields and wetlands like those occurring along the Platte River in Nebraska. They group together in such great numbers they darken the sky and fill the ears with their distinctive rattling bugle calls.
The Smoky Hills Audubon programs are held the third Thursday of the month from September till May at Kansas Wesleyan University. Programs are handicap accessible in room 229 of the Peters Science hall on the South East corner of the KWU campus.
Smoky Hills Audubon Society has been in existence in Salina since 1976. The over 300 programs that have been presented are free and open to the public. A permanent office space for the society is currently planned for the Lakewood Discovery Center. Programs in the coming months will feature zoology, grasses, photography and travel.
Programs begin with a gathering at 7:00 leading up to the program which begins at 7:30. Most programs are completed by 9:00 pm. It is common practice for a door prize to be given away to an attendee.