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Sandhill Crane Aerial Survey – Week 4- 3/7/23

Despite the low cloud ceilings on Tuesday 3/7/23, we were able to get our flight in. We estimated 225,000 +/- 72,000 Sandhill Cranes within the Central Platte River Valley between Chapman and Overton, NE. This is more than 3 times the amount that were here last week as the warmer spring weather this past week must have pushed them through. Last year we saw an even bigger increase from week 3 to 4 as last year we had around 365,500 Sandhill Cranes. This time of March we typically do see large increases in the numbers of Sandhill Cranes since they are really packing into the river in the west and starting to spread into segments of the river to the east. We saw cranes in every bridge segment from Chapman all the way to Odessa. About 90% of the cranes we counted were between Chapman and Wood River. However, most of the cranes further west were already in the fields and meadows for the day when we flew over which is more difficult to detect. Considering how full the river is in the eastern bridge segments and the comparatively lower numbers to the west, we might experience an elongated "peak" shifting east to west in the next 2 to 3 weeks. On an exciting note, the first Whooping Crane of the season was detected on Tuesday!