On Monday, February 20th, we estimated 27,400±6,000 Sandhill Cranes in the Central Platte River Valley between Chapman and Overton, NE. This was a 428% increase from last week. Most of the cranes were within bridge segment 3 (Highway 281 to Alda, NE), but there was one roost in segment 4 (Alda to Wood River, NE) and a few small flocks flying in segment 5 (Wood River to Shelton, NE). During week 2 of last year (2/23/22) we had around 58,000 Sandhill Cranes on the river. However, since 2017, week 2 counts have ranged anywhere from 4,600 (2021) to 66,000 (2017). If there was a “typical” week 2 of crane season, this would be it as far as numbers go. Most of Tuesday (2/21/2023) we experienced strong southern winds which most likely pushed quite a few new birds into the area. However, the current weather from the north will potentially slow migration for a few days.
Other species note:
We also observed 25,600 dark geese, 29 Trumpeter Swans, and 36 Bald Eagles. While we don’t count Snow Geese, we did anecdotally notice a massive increase in Snow Geese in the area compared to last week.
This video by Platte Basin Timelapse provides a great summary of our “Counting Cranes” process