The annual spring waterfowl migration is in full swing across south central Nebraska...with around a half million Sandhill cranes...a few Whooping cranes and millions of ducks and geese scattered along the Platte River Basin. The cranes and other waterfowl begin to rendezvous along the Platte as early as February... resting and feeding in fields to gain weight to continue their migration north...departing the area in early April. Sandhill cranes on average are about 3 to 4 feet in height...weigh between 6 to 12 pounds...having a wing span of 6 to 7 feet.
What does this have to do with the science of meteorology you ask? While we are not wildlife biologists...the cranes and other waterfowl do play a part in our daily weather monitoring. Their large size and number make them ideal radar targets...especially when rising out of the river...area lakes and wetlands in the morning or when flying along the river during the day.
The radar reflectivity animation and radar velocity image below are of Sandhill cranes...ducks and geese flying along the river on March 13th between Kearney and Grand Island. The "fireworks burst" centered on Blue Hill, Nebraska (KUEX) is ground clutter around the radar...small side lobes off the main radar beam striking hills...trees... and buildings within a 25 to 30 mile radius of the radar transmitter. The red colors are targets (birds) moving away from the radar...the green colors represent targets (birds) moving toward the radar.