The annual midwest crane count took place on April 16th and we were once again in our “usual” spot, a privately-owned area known as Moody Marsh. This year it was just me, Eddie, and my dad. We can’t quite remember, but we have been doing these counts for over 10 years now.
Background of Midwest Crane Count
The International Crane Foundation hosts this citizen science project which “spans over 90 counties in six states of the upper Midwest (Wisconsin and portions of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota)”. The purpose is to count and Sandhill (and rarely, Whooping) Cranes between 530 AM and 730 AM on a particular April Saturday. Our goal is to determine if there are any nesting pairs of cranes in our designated area.
This year we saw exactly zero cranes. However, we heard 17 Sandhill Cranes, including 4 breeding pairs. The way these are determined by sound is the crane’s unique “unison” call, showing a bonded pair. The way we determine the number of cranes, is by locating the direction the sounds come from. It isn’t an exact science, but the unison calls are obvious.
Part of the joy of this project is being out before the sun comes up and hearing all the bird songs erupt as dawn breaks. We almost always hear snipe and soras, and many other birds. In all we heard or saw 18 species of birds, although our focus was of course on the cranes.
Sometimes it is difficult to get up at 3:30 in the morning (to allow for driving time) to do this count, but it is always a fun experience.
Check out the International Crane Foundation for more information about cranes and this citizen science project. This is a great place to visit and is where you can see all 15 species of cranes found in the world!