LINCOLN — Spend a morning on the banks of the Platte River, watching as hundreds of sandhill cranes tilt their wings in unison to prep for the next leg of the migration, and you'll begin to feel chills, Dave Titterington says.
“Once you hear those calls, you'll get goosebumps,” the 64-year-old owner of the Wild Bird Habitat Store said. “It gets in your blood.”
It's a phenomenon that filmmakers from True Visionaries sought to re-create with “The Crane Trust,” a 30-minute documentary that premiered Wednesday at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.
Featuring renowned conservationist Jane Goodall, nature photographer Tom Mangelsen and a host of other conservation pioneers, the film aims to shine a spotlight on the annual event those interviewed in it term “magical” — the spring migration of approximately 500,000 sandhill cranes through central Nebraska.
Hosting the event was the Crane Trust, a nonprofit devoted to the protection and enhancement of habitats for whooping cranes, sandhill cranes and other migratory birds along the Big Bend Region of the Platte River Valley in Nebraska.
Much of the film focuses on the threat posed to the crane migration by the damming of the Platte River and the farming of Nebraska's mixed grass prairie, which filmmakers say has left 99 percent of the natural grass gone.
“The threat is immense,” said Chuck Cooper, Crane Trust president. “We're doing now to the river what nature did naturally for thousands of years.”
The film takes viewers behind the scenes of a controlled burn, walks them through the natural prairie and presents an up-close view of the birds awaiting the next leg of their spring journey along the river.
Those who watched were pleased with the opportunity to experience the migration on the big screen. But for Linda Titterington, nothing could beat the real thing.
“Watching a film of it is not the same as seeing it,” she said. “It's amazing, how it just vibrates through you.”
The film will be shown at 7 p.m. today at the Grand Theatre in Grand Island before being released to public broadcasting stations nationwide March 1.