More than 80% of all of the world's sandhill cranes (about 500,000) make a pit stop in spring here before heading north to their summer breeding grounds. In addition, more than 10 million ducks and geese travel here as well. That's a lot of birds.
The spring migration runs from February to April. If you want to avoid the crowds and get out of the cars, birding friends recommend the North Platte Area such as at Buffalo Bill State Historic Park. In the Kearney area, Audubon's Rowe Sanctuary offers tours for a fee.
Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts
Cape Cod is my childhood wilderness, where I came to love both nature and the outdoors because of my parents' affection for the place. We vacationed there annually throughout my youth, and eventually moved to the edge of Cape Cod, Plymouth, when I was in high school. I remember my dad taking me to see beached whales as a kid -- and live ones on whale watching trips -- and swimming in the waters of Cape Cod National Seashore.
My favorite discovery on the beaches of Cape Cod was the horseshoe crabs. These relics from the dinosaur age transfixed me, and I would collect what I thought back then were dead horseshoe crabs -- I now know it's their molted shells -- and bring them home to study. Finding a live one in the water was always a delight. Watching the horseshoe crabs spawn by the full moon, which they do generally from April to June, has always been a highlight for me.
In my talks about California wildlife, I always end with a photo of a horseshoe crab, even though we lack the animal on the Pacific Coast. For me these ancient creatures engendered my love of wildlife, and they remind me of the wonder of running around the beaches of Cape Cod as a kid, excitedly searching for these prehistoric creatures in the soft sand.