Annual Midwest Crane Count April 16
The Annual Midwest Crane Count happens only one day a year. This year it is Saturday, April 16th, from 5:30 am to 7:30am, sponsored by the International Crane Foundation. The date is selected because the Sandhills have completed their migration to Wisconsin and have settled into their territory. The early morning count is taken when they are still in their roosting sites. However, usually within an hour of sunrise, they leave the roost and head uphill to farm fields for feeding during the day, before returning to the roost around sunset. By taking count at dawn, we are fairly assured of them being somewhat stationary to increase accuracy of the count.
Over 2,000 volunteer participants from throughout Wisconsin and portions of IL, IN, IA, MI and MN participate in the Spring survey, which gathers information on the abundance and distribution of cranes in the upper Midwest. The International Crane Foundation sponsors the count as a part of its mission to conserve the world’s 15 species of cranes and the natural communities on which they depend. Sandhill Cranes once nearly disappeared from Wisconsin, but the species has successfully recovered and is slowly expanding into neighboring states. Observations of Sandhill Cranes can lend insight into threatened crane species, including the Endangered Whooping Crane. There are now over 100 Whopping Cranes in the reintroduced population in central Wisconsin, and Crane Counters may have a chance of sighting a Whooping Crane during the survey.
The Washington County Coordinator for the count, Patty Keuck, says there are sites still available for crane counting volunteers. Some people are fortunate to have Sandhills on their property or close by, and while it may not be a designated site, “it all counts”! The most important gear is to wear clothing appropriate for the day (usually an April morning at 5:30am can be wet and cold, so warm clothes, hats and gloves are usually essential) and to bring a pair of binoculars. The county coordinator will be explaining the data collecting sheet, how to accurately report the data and how to turn it in so it can be collected. The Annual Midwest Crane Count has been going on for over 35 years. Patty Keuck says, “My first count was in 1982 in Manitowoc County. Wisconsin had less than 35 Sandhill Cranes in the 1930’s and through many efforts, including the Crane Count, it is no longer an endangered species. But to maintain it’s habitat, the Count is still essential. I am happy to speak with anyone interested via phone or email and can discuss sites available.”