When I received the email last week from Pat Richardson and Connie Huff of Alaska that included the itinerary and other information about the 2015 NFPW Conference pre-tour, I did a little happy dance in my head.

I’m not the overtly emotional type, so I didn’t do an actual happy dance. My colleagues at the Kearney Hub would have thought I had gone a little nuts.

Although it might have been different if I had been surrounded by some of my dance-prone extrovert NFPW friends. (Marlene and Marianne of Illinois immediately come to mind.)

Even with gloomy Gus type people, it usually is easy to tell when something makes them happy. Holding back a smile sometimes can be as impossible as trying not to sneeze.

I think the same is true with animals, although some wildlife specialists and pet experts might argue that what humans interpret as happy behaviors often mean something else.

On my Saturday morning walk around a wetland behind my house, I was accompanied by a chorus of frogs. It was a happy sound I hadn’t heard since our wet June turned into a dry July.

However, it had rained an inch or more Friday night, following another nice rain earlier in the week.
So far, the spring and summer of 2015 is much like 2014, with a dry July being followed by a wet August.

There probably were some farmers singing the “If you’re happy and you know it…” song in their heads this week.

With crop prices very low again this year, rains during the growing season that have greatly reduced irrigation costs may be the only chance to at least break even for many farmers. Meanwhile, the pastures have allowed wonderful grazing for cattle, cutting down or eliminating the need for early supplemental feeding.

I was at Fort Kearny State Recreation Area later Saturday morning to take photos at a “Becoming an Outdoor Family” event where people of all ages could try kayaking, fishing, archery and shooting sports.

Little kids were pulling tiny bluegills out of a pond with grins on their faces as if they had just hooked trophy fish.

Fishing1, Leo Vickers, Omaha-crop

No one can convince me that my kitties, Tas and Thai, don’t express joy. They sure seem happy to see me when I get home from work and they purr when I scratch their necks or comb their hair. I have been known to sing the “If you’re happy…” song to them.

I love to see sandhill cranes do their version of a happy dance during the spring migration stop by about 600,000 of them in the Central Platte Valley in Nebraska. In the fall, they might stop overnight, but if I see or hear them at all, it is just as they fly over.

Yes, a lot of the head bobbing, wide wing displays, jumps and vocalizations they do in the Platte River and surrounding cornfields and wet meadows are to make an impression on a mate or prospective mate before they continue their flight north to nesting grounds in Canada and Alaska. But they sure look happy to me and it makes me happy to watch and listen to them.


So, while all the stops on the Alaska tour sound wonderful, I can’t help but be most excited about seeing some of my sandhill crane friends at their summer home at Creamer’s Field.

I was assured by two Alaskans volunteering in March at the National Audubon Society’s Rowe Sanctuary southeast of Kearney that the cranes at Creamer’s Field are part of the group that migrates from south Texas and stops in Nebraska for about six weeks from late February-early April.

I’ll have a camera pressed to my face during that part of the pre-tour, with a smile on my face and the “If you’re happy …” song playing in my head.

And then I’ll hope the cranes will do a little happy dance as a memory I can keep until they return to the Kearney area again early next year.