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Early spring along the Platte River is sheer magic. For more than a month migratory sandhill cranes pour into central Nebraska, attracted by the shallow river’s abundant roosting sites and nearby meadows and farms for feeding. Looking like legions of gray ghosts from a distance, the birds often cover wet meadows and cornfields from one end to the other. Flocks of a thousand or more fly low over the river, their voices rising and falling as they approach, pass overhead and disappear. With nearly a half-million cranes stopping here each spring, the placid Platte is transformed into the site of the greatest gathering of these birds in the world.