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Sandhill Crane Aerial Survey – Week 2- 2/20/23

2/20/2023 – Roost in bridge segment 4 (Alda to Wood River, NE) where Sandhill Cranes were roosting surrounded by dark geese and Snow Geese. Can you tell the difference between the species?

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.

More info:

This video by Platte Basin Timelapse provides a great summary of our “Counting Cranes” process

Check out other work the science team has been up to!