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).
To celebrate this year’s Endangered Species Day, we wanted to discuss the stories of some incredible migratory birds that rely on the Platte River. Whether it be just a quick pit stop to refuel on their 2,500-mile-long migration or a longer stay to breed and raise a family, the habitat throughout the Central Platte River Valley and the rest of Nebraska is integral to the life history of the Interior Least Tern, Piping Plover, and Whooping Crane.
Happy World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD), a celebration of migratory birds and their spectacular journeys! WMBD is an international education event focused on the nearly 350 bird species that travel between their nesting habitats in North America and wintering grounds in Latin America and the Caribbean.
National Start Seeing Monarchs Day is celebrated every year on the first Saturday of May. Monarchs can be found in prairies, meadows, grasslands, and roadsides, but generally, we do not start seeing them in Nebraska until June.
How did the Sandhill Crane get its name? Do people feed the cranes? Why do cranes dance? Fielding these and countless other crane questions is what Crane Trust volunteer Jodi Fegley does every day she spends at our Nature and Visitor Center.
When we hear the calls of cranes, we hear a sound that is very ancient, and perhaps the excitement we feel contains some recognition of the prehistoric nature of their spectacular gatherings on the river.
On April 18th last week, the Crane Trust bison herd welcomed a new member. The birth of this calf is the launch of the new calving season here at the Crane Trust.
Every year, thousands of Sandhill Cranes migrate through this area during the spring migration from mid-February to mid-April. Thousands of visitors also migrate through our area during this time to see the cranes.
We counted an estimated 247,700+23,800 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley on 8 April 2019.
On the morning of 26 March 2019 we counted a new record high Sandhill Crane count for our survey, which has run since 2002 and covers the Central Platte River Valley between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska.
The Big Bend of the Platte River, where the Crane Trust is located, is a vital way station for nearly 20 million migratory birds on their annual journeys between their wintering and breeding grounds.
On 21 March 2019 we counted 326,400+72,000 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley. Our bias estimates actually suggested that our numbers may be about ~15% high, but I decided not to apply the bias correction to our public report today because I am certain we missed birds outside of our survey area on Thursday morning.
Happy World Sparrow Day! Sparrows are humble heroes of the prairie, whether they migrate thousands of miles to their Central American wintering grounds and back, like the Grasshopper Sparrow, or live with us year round, whatever the weather, like the Song Sparrow, or stop over on their migration, like the Lincoln’s Sparrow.
It is believed that if you fold 1,000 origami cranes, your wish will come true. Staff and volunteers have folded enough origami cranes over the years for the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center to have had a few wishes come true.
This morning we counted 66,905+9,056 Sandhill Cranes and ~ 31,300 dark geese in the Central Platte River Valley. Sandhill Cranes were present in 10 of our 11 survey segments between Chapman and Overton, Nebraska.
We continue to count the same general group of birds; our estimate for today’s count was 16,500+5,445. No Sandhill Cranes roosted on the Platte River last night; the two roosts we detected were in fields near the river about 3 miles east of Alda Rd.
This year’s theme for World Wildlife Day is “Life Below Water”. To celebrate, we want to shed some light on the diversity, threats, and conservation research of submerged aquatic life in meadow sloughs and the Platte River.
Today we counted 17,080 Sandhill Cranes, but we did not get a reliable error estimate because all the birds were detected in a scattering just east of Alda Road with many in the air and most in a hayed field.
Crane Trust volunteer guide Rich Johnson grew up south of Red Cloud, home of Willa Cather, the acclaimed author who documented the lives of European settlers in the Great Plains in books such as O Pioneers! and My Ántonia.
On 24 February 2019, we detected 17,400+3,097 Sandhill Cranes in two nearby roosts between
HWY 281 and Alda Rd.
Before European settlement of the Great Plains, our mixed-grass prairie ecosystem evolved under influences such as climate, large herds of grazing animals and fire.
Update Week 1: Aerial Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis) Counts of the Central Platte River Valley, 02/12/2019
Watching the cranes roosting on the river is a remarkable experience.
The Crane Trust protects a unique form of wetland within the Central Platte River Valley (CPRV) called a “wet meadow”.
The poet Wallace Stevens wrote of “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” and Crane Trust tour guide Guy Roggenkamp can tell you at least as many ways of looking at cranes.
It is no secret that critical habitat for many species around the world is being lost every day to development and we are no different here in the Platte Valley.
Like Whooping Cranes, Peregrine Falcons have shown us how endangered species can come back from the brink of extinction in response to conservation efforts.
The Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center will open our tour bookings for the spring Sandhill Crane Migration on January 4, 2019.
Those of us who are crazy about cranes are sometimes called “craniacs,” and one particular craniac, Deb Miller, has even put this nickname on her car’s license plate for all the world to see!
The Crane Trust has worked our bison herd every year for the past four years.