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Crane Count Week 7 - 3/28/2024

Hey all,

On March 28th, we estimated 486,000 +/- 78,000 Sandhill Cranes between Chapman and Overton along with at least 91 Whooping Cranes reported between our partners! This is the 3rd week in a row with numbers above 400,000, which has only been recorded a few times in recent years. Last week’s prediction of having a “low and slow peak” seems to be holding up. However, we still have very high numbers in the east, with a note of large concentrations between Chapman and Highway 281. Cranes have increasingly been documented in these bridge segments in the past few years but not at this level before. Around 45% of the recorded cranes were between Chapman and Highway 281 this week. This could be partially because many cranes left the river earlier than normal on Thursday, placing more cranes throughout the fields rather than concentrated in the river as we flew west. Cranes are continuing to have to travel further for ample food as fields and prairies are being picked over continuously. Regardless, the distribution of cranes typically shifts west around, if not by, this time of year, which we have not seen yet.

Thursday had decent winds for migration so we may have lost some already since the flight. (Side note: we flew from Chapman to Overton because the winds would have made the flight way too fast in the opposite direction.) However, this next week predicts unfavorable migrating winds up until next Thursday. With the plateau in numbers in the recent weeks, the rate of arrivals and departures have been nearly equal. We have been experiencing more winds from the north (or maybe more accurately, winds not from the south) recently which can definitely slow the rate of migration. Sandhill Cranes typically stay in the CPRV for 3-5 weeks and I’m guessing a lot of these birds have been here towards the upper end of that range. Nonetheless, this is a lot of speculation as there are no trackers on Sandhill Cranes currently and our flights only capture population data rather than data on individuals.

Many questions won’t be answered till the moment is already past, but there is one question we can finally answer that we were asked repeatedly this year, “Will there be cranes around at the end of March?” I can confidently say yes, plenty! Compared to all the uncertainty in our lives, cranes have to be one of the more reliable, but they somehow still leave us in suspense every year.

Till next week,