News & Events

Events, Blog Posts, News, and Updates

On February 29th we estimated 272,000 +/- 43,000 sandhill cranes between Chapman and Overton NE. This is over double what we had last week and is another record for the year!

Another record week! On February 24, 2024, we estimated 122,700 +/- 9,100 Sandhill Cranes between Chapman and Overton, NE. On average, this time of year we see around 27,000 cranes. The previous record was recorded as 82,000 in 2016.

On February 14th, 2024, we estimated 38,000 ± 6,800 Sandhill Cranes between Chapman and Overton, NE. This is the highest count on record during the first week of our aerial surveys.

The whooping crane, Grus americana, is the tallest bird in North America. Its feathers are completely white except for black wing tips, a red patch on its forehead, and black patches on its head. Standing five feet tall and soaring on an eight-foot wingspan, these cranes are surprisingly endangered. It is hard to imagine a bird that large and think of it as anything but invincible. Unfortunately, whooping crane numbers plummeted in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Driven by habitat loss and hunting there were only 15 left by 1941. Without the creation of conservation organizations and programs in response to factors hurting whooping cranes, they might be extinct. Read this blog to learn more about the Crane Trust's origin and how we aid in the conservation of whooping cranes!

Bethany Ostrom, Wildlife Biologist, provides a glimpse into her view of the crane migration and her weekly crane count filghts.

On October 23rd, we completed an 80-acre prescribed burn on Crane Trust property. Turning the grassland black and creating a smokey sky. Prescribed burns are controlled fires that are lit to fulfill some kind of land management goal. At the Crane Trust, we burn to reduce litter and woody plant species, promote diversity, and mimic the natural interval at which fire ravaged the landscape. The goal of this fire was to open up the landscape for cranes and other bird species while riding a restored slough of woody plant species. Without controlled burns ecosystem health would suffer, wildfires would be more likely, and we would not be able to manage the landscape as naturally without it. Read the full blog to learn more!

At the Crane Trust, we work our plains bison (Latin name Bison bison bison) annually. Since acquiring about 41 bison in 2015 our herd has grown to 170 individuals. We collect tail hair DNA for genetic testing, collect feces to monitor their parasite loads, give them identification tags, take their weight, score their body condition and sort them into groups while working. Want to learn more about bison working? Read this blog!

Recently, the Crane Trust had the unique opportunity to help Nebraska Wildlife Rehab with the release of two juvenile river otters on Crane Trust Property. Join us in reading an uplifting story of conservation success in Nebraska.

Learn about seed collecting at the Crane Trust

Learn about migratory birds and access a comprehensive list of 250+ birds identified on Crane Trust lands.

Interested in the health monitoring of Crane Trust's bison? Read this blog to learn about our parasite monitoring program!

Learn about small mammal surveys at the Crane Trust with Matt Urbanski, Saunders Conservation Fellow.

Have you ever wondered how or why we survey our Plants? Read this Blog and learn with me, Matt Urbanski, Saunders Conservation Fellow!

Crane Trust nature trail trail system dedicated to great friends of the Trust, Doug and Allison Frey

This month is National Bison Month! Join me in learning about our bison herd at the Crane Trust, what happened this July, and what we will be doing in the upcoming months.

Join me in learning about two butterflies of concern, how we monitor them, and why we do so at the Crane Trust!

Last Tuesday the Crane Trust's science team visited a piece of Crane Trust land, accessible only by water. They took inventory of plants and birds, observed the landscape, and began assessing the land's ecological value. 

Join me in learning what a slough is, how one is being restored, and why we restore them at the Crane Trust!

Hi, I am Matt Urbanski, the Crane Trust’s new Saunders Conservation Fellow! Today I will be introducing you to Megan Soldatke, Lila O. Wilson Biological Monitoring Fellow and myself.

Crane Trust Range Manager Josh Wiese updates us on planting plugs and prairie propagation!

Last week on April 6th we counted an estimated 228,600 +/- 18,200 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley. On April 12th we only counted an estimated 3,500 Sandhill Cranes which brings the 2023 crane season to a close.

On Saturday, 4/1/23, we counted an estimated 261,300 +/- 28,500 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley.

On Monday March 20th, we estimated 378,000 +/- 40,500 Sandhill Cranes around the Platte River between Chapman to Overton, NE, which appears to be a 17% decrease in numbers from last week. This is slightly surprising as we were expecting an increase from last week. However, there are many plausible reasons to lead us to believe we may have had a lower than average detection rate this week.

This week on Tuesday 3/14/23, we estimated 457,800 +/- 28,600 Sandhill Cranes within the Central Platte River Valley between Chapman and Overton, NE. We saw Sandhill Cranes in every bridge segment this week as the total number of Sandhill Cranes doubled from last week.

On Monday, Feb 27th, we counted an estimated 69,100±12,000 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley between Chapman and Overton which is a 250% increase from last week.

On Monday, February 20th, we estimated 27,400±6,000 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley between Chapman and Overton, NE

On February 13th 2023, we counted an estimated 6,400±900 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska.

As a Wildlife Biologist on the Crane Trust science team, one of the most commonly asked questions I get asked about my job is “What do you do in the winter months when you aren’t in the field every day?” People are often surprised when I say the science team is just as busy in the office in the winter months as out in the field in the summer.

Want a front row seat to the Sandhill and Whooping Crane migration this spring? Become a member today to get full access to our Virtual Crane Cam! Your membership makes a positive difference in habitat protection, habitat restoration, and outreach efforts to engage the community.

To celebrate May being Nebraska Bird Month, each Friday the Crane Trust will post a blog with information on one Nebraska bird species. Our last species is our state bird...the Western Meadowlark! Click the blog to learn more about this species!

To celebrate May being Nebraska Bird Month, each Friday the Crane Trust will post a blog with information on one Nebraska bird species. This Friday's species is...the Piping Plover! Click the blog to learn more about this species!

To celebrate May being Nebraska Bird Month, each Friday the Crane Trust will post a blog with information on one Nebraska bird species. This Friday's species is...the Bobolink! Click the blog to learn more about this species!

To celebrate May being Nebraska Bird Month, each Friday the Crane Trust will post a blog with information on one Nebraska bird species. This Friday's species is...the Greater Prairie Chicken! Click the blog to learn more about this species!

On Saturday 9 April 2022 we counted an estimated 146,400±20,600 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) during our week-9 aerial survey from Overton to Chapman, Nebraska. We did not complete our week-8 survey as a result of high winds and technical difficulties. However, we do not appear to have missed any important changes in abundance as Sandhill Crane numbers are statistically similar to results from our last survey on 29 March (169,500±11,800).

On 29 March 2022 we counted an estimated 169,500±11,800 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska. This represents a 73% decline from last week’s peak estimate of 625,900±61,800 for the 2022 spring migration.

On 21 March 2022 we counted an estimated 625,900±61,800 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska. Cranes were predominantly east of Kearney, Nebraska, with the highest densities between Phillips and Wood River as well as Shelton and Minden, Nebraska.

On 15 March 2022 we counted an estimated 534,900±34,200 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska. Eastern segments (Chapman to Wood River) seemed full and near peak numbers but central and western survey segments (Wood River to Overton) will likely continue to see abundance increases over the next couple weeks, including today, with advantageous winds for migration.

Every year, nearly 1 million Sandhill cranes and millions of other large-bodied birds migrate through central Nebraska. Numerous species of birds are known to collide with power lines causing millions of deaths worldwide. The Crane Trust, Rowe Sanctuary, and EDM International Incorporated tested the effectiveness of an experimental “Avian Collision Avoidance System” that used UV light, which is barely visible to humans, to illuminate the high-voltage power lines crossing the Platte River near Rowe Sanctuary. Click here to learn about the results!

On March 8th we counted an estimated 365,500±29,500 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska.

We are pleased and honored to announce that the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center has been selected as a 2022 Nebraska Passport Stop! The program runs from May 1st to September 30th. We cannot wait to be a part of your next Nebraska adventure!

On 23 February 2022 we counted an estimated 57,850±7,300 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska, during our second survey of the year. On 1 March we conducted the third aerial survey of the 2022 spring migration and counted an estimated 67,300±10,300 Sandhill Cranes in the CPRV, which only represented a 16% increase over survey week two.

The Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center offers a variety of tour options to make sure your crane viewing experience is truly magical. Not sure which will be best for you? Continue reading to learn about the differences, similarities, and best crane viewing option to fit your needs!

On February 14th, 2022, we counted an estimated 27,425±645 Sandhill Cranes in the CPRV. We also documented 23,240 “dark geese” including Canada Geese, Cackling Geese, and Greater White-fronted Geese as well as 73 Trumpeter Swans, and 7 Bald Eagles.

Want a front row seat to the Sandhill and Whooping Crane migration this spring? The Crane Trust has you covered! Become a member today and you will get full access to our Virtual Crane Cam! Through your membership, you help us to make a difference in habitat protection, habitat restoration, and outreach efforts to spread our mission to the community!

Thank you to everyone who has followed my journey since May. I have thoroughly enjoyed portraying all of the work I have done at the Crane Trust to you. Be sure to keep an eye out for future social media and blog posts coming in 2022! Thank you all again, see you next year!

Join me this week to learn more about the ecological role bison play on prairie landscapes and how the Crane Trust manages their bison herd for the conservation of the species and the ecosystems they help preserve!

It's time to take a glimpse into the world of the tallest and one of the most rarest birds in the world...the Whooping Crane! Join me this week as I participated in a Whooping Crane behavioral study with the Crane Trust's Threatened and Endangered Species Specialist, Dave Baasch!

Bird nerds UNITE! This week I'm talking all about the migration of avian species, waterfowl to be specific. Click this link to read more about the species that have been seen on Crane Trust properties and how the Trust manages their properties to help these species survive their long migration!

Read this week's blog to get a peak into the world of...soundscape ecology!

Disking the Platte River is no easy feat... Check out this weeks blog post as I learn how the land management team takes on this massive, yet vital task and how this tool is used to help the habitat and its inhabitants!

Join me in this weeks post as I learn about the importance of groundwater and how it plays a role in helping ecosystems surrounding the Platte River!

Things really heated up for this week's blog post! Be sure to read more on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the link provided at the end of the blog post! See you next time!

It's time to take a dive into the water! This week was all about exploring the Platte River and its surrounding wet meadows and sloughs! Click to read further and to see some amazing pictures!

This week you can read all about my absolute favorite time of year...small mammal season! Click on this blog post to learn more about my experience with small mammal surveys and find out what kind of species we found!

I talked about the heart and soul of wet meadows and tallgrass prairies in a previous blog post, but this week I dove even deeper and learned about where it all began...the humble seed!

Explore life underground with me this week as I learn about macroinvertebrates and their role they play in Sandhill and Whooping Crane diets!

Check out this weeks blog post about my experience with the nocturnal critters around the Crane Trust properties!

This week I learned all about the heart and soul of the tallgrass prairies...vegetation! Read more to learn all about my adventures this week with the Crane Trust!

Click to read all about my adventures this week and how I learned the importance of collaboration among organizations striving towards a common goal!

Starting today our Saunders fellow, Amanda Medaries, will be posting her experience throughout the year at the Crane Trust! Join her every Friday on all social media platforms and every other Friday here on the Prairie Pulse! Today’s post is about her first glimpse into the Crane Trust, which includes pictures of some of the avian species seen during our avian migration surveys, as well as some of the bison we manage to better understand their role in prairie ecosystem health!

We counted an estimated 18,900+/-1,100 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska, on 12 April 2021.

We counted an estimated 35,800+/-5,300 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska, on 6 April 2021.

We counted an estimated 216,700+/-58,500 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska, on 28 March 2021.

We counted 574,000+/-153,000 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska, on Friday March 19th.

Today we counted a photo-corrected abundance estimate of 459,700+/-99,300 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska. Our models of Sandhill Crane migration based on weather were pretty accurate and last week, as hypothesized, delivered a large number of Sandhill Cranes to the CPRV. This represents a 239% increase in our Sandhill Crane abundance index over last week’s estimate (135,800+/-18,300).

Today we counted a raw estimate of 99,200 and a photo-corrected estimate of 135,800+/-18,300 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska. We also counted an estimated ~49,200 dark geese. Both Sandhill Cranes and dark geese increased markedly over last week (previous counts of 4,600 and 5,700 respectively).

Today (2-22-21) we counted 4,600+/-200 Sandhill Cranes in one roost near TNC's Dahms Tract, south of Wood River, NE. This location is pretty far west for a large Sandhill Crane roost to occur this early in the spring migration considering our data from the last half decade. We counted a very similar number of Sandhill Cranes (4,300+/-1,250) during the previous week’s survey on 2-15-21.

The Crane Trust, a nonprofit habitat maintenance organization in central Nebraska, has come up with a novel approach for viewing the one-of-a-kind sandhill crane migration this spring. The trust is offering Virtual Crane Tours for the first time.

We counted 210 Sandhill Cranes and 46 American White Pelicans in the CPRV on the 20th of April 2020. This marks another year when Sandhill Crane counts in survey week 1 (~6,150 on 11 February 2020) exceeded those in week 10 for our database, which has become increasingly common over the last 20 years.

We counted a bias-corrected 64,460+/-5,340 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley on 13 April 2020.

On 7 April 2020 we counted an estimated 224,800+/-49,200 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV), Nebraska. The birds were predominantly distributed west of Wood River (.>96%).

On Sunday 29 March we counted an estimated 475,600+/-65,100 Sandhill Cranes.

Every year my partner and I sleep in a small wooden box or hay bale blind on –or sometimes in– the Platte River.

On Saturday 21 March 2020 we counted an estimated 524,266+/-110,222 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV).

On 12 March 2020 we counted a raw estimate of 541,000 Sandhill Cranes. The survey was actually out of parameter for wind, but we decided to continue anyways as the long-term forecast looked poor for flights over the next ten days. In actuality, this morning (13 March) was pretty good, but it looked like a good candidate for morning fog via the forecast yesterday. This is my 6th year conducting the aerial surveys for the Crane Trust and I have conducted over 55 such surveys; this was one of the two bumpiest rides I have had. Our pilot did an amazing job, but the air was unstable and we had winds of up to 35 mph out of the north. In fact, the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program discontinued one of their two aerial Whooping Crane surveys prematurely due to wind. In any case, this data is in our database as “out of parameter”, but I figured some data was better than nothing. Because of the bumpiness only one photo series was clear enough to complete a photo-subplot for bias estimation. I was -33.6% on that one group. Given the insufficient sample of photo-subplots our estimate from yesterday does not include confidence intervals and has not been adjusted for bias. Therefore, the 541,000 can be seen as a minimum, and if all my estimates were about –30% low (but they are usually not that bad) there could be ~700,000 in the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) right now via our survey method, but that is a pretty rough guess. This is likely close to peak abundance via our database.

We counted a bias adjusted 196,400+/- 47,570 Sandhill Cranes, well up from last week’s count of 34,500+1,200. Warm conditions on major Sandhill Crane wintering grounds and winds out of the south in the central and southern Great Plains likely aided this mass arrival.

Today we counted 34,500+/-1,200 Sandhill Cranes roosting in the Central Platte River Valley. We detected Cranes from near Phillips to about Wood River as well as near Gibbon, Nebraska.

Today we counted 13,120+/-1,950 Sandhill Cranes along the Platte River, predominantly near Mormon and Shoemaker Islands, Hall County, NE.

On February 7th we spent the afternoon discussing the Crane Trust mission of protecting and restoring migratory bird habitat to Grand Island Senior High School (GISH) students. Students learned how research, land management, and cooperative partnerships are used to accomplish our mission.

Welcome back to spring migration!

We counted 6,150+/-240 Sandhill Cranes today in the Central Platte River Valley, detecting the bulk of the cranes between Grand Island and Alda, Nebraska. Sandhill Cranes were also detected between Alda and Wood River, as well as Gibbon and Minden in lower numbers. We counted 61,000 dark geese, with a large proportion of those being Cackling Geese spread throughout the survey route from Chapman to Overton, Nebraska. We also counted 19 Trumpeter Swans. 

We counted 6,150+/-240 Sandhill Cranes today in the Central Platte River Valley, detecting the bulk of the cranes between Grand Island and Alda, Nebraska.

On October 13th during the late afternoon and early evening we began to hear large numbers of Sandhill Cranes flying overhead as the full “Hunter's Moon” rose in the darkening sky (Pic. 1). Generally, in the fall, Sandhill Cranes simply pass over the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV), or stop in relatively small flocks of about 20 to 100 birds for a night or two. This is very different than the massive gathering of over 600,000 birds that occurs here in the spring.

The Crane Trust Science Team worked with our partners at Hastings College last week to host our collaborative week-long educational program, Crane Trust Academy. We welcomed 12 high school students from Nebraska and Colorado to introduce them to the amazing wildlife in the Platte River Valley and standard field ecology research methods.

Happy World Otter Day! While unregulated harvest and habitat degradation led to the extirpation of river otters (Lontra canadensis) from the state of Nebraska by the early 1900s (Biscof 2006, Olson et al. 2008, Wilson 2012), extensive reintroduction efforts by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission have resulted in a healthy, reproductively viable, and expanding population of river otters in the state (Panella and Wilson 2018).