2009 Sandhill Crane Counts

2009 Crane Counts


MARCH 2009

Wednesday, March 4 – 240
Crane-spotter, Katie Gnauck, was crossing the reservoir causeway this evening and spotted about 60 cranes on the Figure 4 Ranch.  She returned the morning of the 5th and was surprised to see 240 cranes lifting off!  We’re not sure if this is the resident flock that winters here, or the beginning of the real migration.  In either event, we have cranes.  Can Crane Days be far behind? – Jeanne

Friday, March 6 – 11
The wind has been blowing all day–not the best weather for cranes.  But there were 11 hardy birds at Fruitgrowers when I checked just before sunset.
– Jeanne

Sunday, March 8 –   450 to 1,000
Two reliable sources, Anne Schmidt & Robin Lightfoot, counted 450 cranes tonight.  Evie Horn  estimated there to be 1,000 just before dark.  – Jeanne & Jim

Monday, March 9 –  0
I was unable to watch the cranes liftoff this morning as I attended the funeral of a long-time Eckert resident.  However, as I walked out of Eckert Presbyterian Church,  450 or more cranes from last night were calling, circling and climbing in the blue sky overhead.  What a fitting memorial to Atha Kendrick,  who, from her home next to Surface Creek, could see and hear the cranes each spring. – Jeanne

Tuesday, March 10 –  0
We drove over to the Reservoir about 6:30 p.m.  No cranes visible at that time, although one stalwart bird watcher was sitting patiently in his car, spotting scope ready–just in case. – Jeanne

Wednesday, March 11 – 300+
North of North Road (“causeway”)  – Many cranes were feeding behind the cattails making it difficult to get an accurate count.  – Jim
Coming over the hill towards Vela’s ranch we spotted 9 deer feeding in the field below.  On the Figure 4 Ranch the newborn calves were chasing each other in the twilight, then making a beeline back to their mothers.  Spring on the Western Slope! – Jeanne

Thursday, March 12 – 400 +/-
Several late arrivals (about 6:50)  – Jim
Just as we were about to drive home, shortly after sunset, the group of cranes on the southwest side of the reservoir decided to join the rest of the flock on the Figure 4.  The low, dark  silhouettes against the red sky is an awesome sight. – Jeanne

Friday, March 13 – 0
Cold, blustery sunset  a change from a warm friendly day.  Mystery swan – solitary bird near western shore but too far for precise ID – dark bill suggests Trumpeter.  – Will check tomorrow. – Jim

Saturday, March 14 – 200
410  Cranes  the next morning.  I don’t know if they were well hidden or late arrivals last night . 
This is an appoximation because the cranes were in shrubs on the west shore south of North Road until late (below Vela’s crane point parking area).  I quit at 7:00 pm because we had great friends over for supper and I didn’t want to be late.   (I looked for swans but saw none.)
[If it stays warm there is a chance tomorrow (Sunday) night could be a good one . . . and there’s worse things you could do than being parked by the reservoir on a calm evening.].
– Jim

Sunday, March 15 –  200 +
A group of more than 100 arrived after 7:00, many of which landed in distant fields to the northeast of the reservoir water, but many rejoined the others about 7:25 in the last light of the day. – Jim

Monday, March 16 – 1204*
At 7:30 p.m. I estimated about 1,200 –    * this after Judy the whale kisser agreed with hubby Marv that there 2004. Anne and Robin said there were at least 4. Martha asserted  there were 2,204.  So I counted and recounted but couldn’t come up with those numbers, so I conceded the 4.  – Jim

Tuesday, March 17th – 1000 +/-
By 7:30 the cranes were in three distinct groups . . .  and a few late arrivals.  Two 1000 crane days in a row does not happen often.
[Happy birthday brother, N.Patrick Durr – you made it longer than Dad.]  -Jim

Wednesday, March 18 – There are at least, AT LEAST, 1,500 1,200 cranes and could be up to 1,500 1,800.  (Note the Morning increases in the count.)  At 7:30 they were mostly associated with the western shore of the Reservoir and south of North Road and with Velas’ fields below the Vela Crane Point area.  [Liftoff the past two days have been after 10:30 MDT.]  – Jim

Thursday, March 19 –  1,000
There may be a bunch more cranes than that – in fact, others have suggested that my estimates of birds has been low for the past few days, which may be true. — Still you got to call ’em as you see ’em, and guess on the other ones you think are there.    Lots of movement between the landed groups of cranes from 7:00 to 7:30 pm.  – Jim

Friday, March 20 –  100+  200 by Saturday morning’s count.
After a record  4 evenings in a row with more than a thousand cranes landing each afternoon, we are going have a tenth of that with a much bigger audience tomorrow morning.    (If anyone knows the official email to arrange crane flights into Hart’s Basin, PLEASE send it to us.)

Reminder – check the Event Schedule page for tomorrow’s presentations. – Jim

Saturday, March 21 –  (1,000)* –
This number comes courtesy of Chip Clouse, American Birding  Association,  who hung in there late to show others Sandhill Cranes with his scopes.  I didn’t have time to do an accuratee count, but from what I saw I’d have to agree with Chip. — Jim

* Another estimate the next morning (Sunday) suggested as many as 1,400.

— And a big THANK YOU to John Vradenburg and Rich Durnan for their marvelous presentations today.  John said that yesterday there were still many cranes at the San Luis Valley.

Sunday, March 22 –  Morning –
I went to the Reservoir to count the cranes I didn’t have a chance to count last night.  Instead I saw a great many cars parked unsafely, too many engrossed bird watchers forgetting that north Road is still a public highway, and an occasional local driving with a regret that he is unable to drive that stretch of North Road with his customary 10 mph over the speed limit.  When so many are drawing deep experiences from observing the cranes and other birds at the Basin, it is hopeful that no one gets hurt in a moment of thoughtlessness.

My other reaction to this morning’s events is – when did crane watching also become a dog show?  Although we have the best dog in the county, I would never think of subjecting him to other birdwatchers.   Yet it seems several of today’s dog owners held leases but not binoculars. – Jim

Evening –  88
With today’s high winds blowing in all that red Utah dust, it didn’t seem likely that many cranes would be here, so we didn’t go look.  Once again I relied on the observations of Jim Wallace who counted with a spotting scope bounced by the gusts.   It is not known if these few birds are tonight’s arrivals or holdovers.
– Jim

Monday, March 23 –  64+
Cold, bustery, miserable weather today.  I am sure I saw 64 and I’m sure I missed some because the cranes were hunkered down in the cattails and reeds on the north side of the road.   So the question is – are these the same birds from yesterday?  – Jim

Tuesday, March 24 – 0
None seen, none heard, no surprise – given the cold windy weather.

Wednesday, March 25 – 0
Same weather, same result.

Thursday, March 26 – 0
What ever happened to Spring?

Friday, March 27 – 0
We tried to count a couple of herons as cranes, but we didn’t have any red paint to dip their heads in.

For those of you who think the migration is over – I’m not sure that even half the cranes have come through yet.   – Tomorrow’s weather forecast  looks hopeful for crane arrivals late in the afternoon, but the weather we’ve had the past four days hasn’t given us much to work with for tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow we will still have our presentations at Surface Creek Winery – see the Event Schedule page. – Jim.

Saturday, March 28 – 2
(2,000+ cranes didn’t show up tonight.  Go figure.  Clear Skies, no strong head winds, warmer temperatures.  I think I’ll try giving up predicting anything about cranes. )

Strange gull – Ross or Bonaparte?  Thought we saw a black collar.  Will check it out in the morning and report back. – Jim

Sunday, March 29
1)  I received  a report that one or more of you went to the reservoir expecting to see 2,000+ cranes.  Sorry there were only 2 there.  I hope no one came any long distance because of the misunderstanding.  ( Not only do I need to rethink trying to predict crane behavior, it appears I have to rethink making fun of my ability to do so.)

2) Got there too late to see the gulls to fine tune the identification.  i.e. NO GULLS this morning.  If I get a reliable id from someone I’ll pass it along.

3) Marvelous Western Grebe courtship displays.  – Jim

It looks like the 2 from last night were still there.  Considering today’s winds, where the other 17  came from is not known.

Monday, March 30 – 2
Again a pair along the NW shore.   It’s winter again.

Tuesday, March 31 – 0
How many different ways can you write about nothing?  I prefer to blame it on the weather. – Jim

Wednesday, April 1  – 0
No joke.

Thursday, April 2  –  700
The weather broke and these cranes made a break for it.  700 is an estimate because so many were in brush and high grasses and cattails.

Other significant sighting: Evelyn Horn prowling the north shore.

Friday, April 3 – 900+/-
A late count (7:20pm) had cranes landing from wherever and many birds still hunkered in catail cover (blowing rain).. Today’s windy, overcast but warmer weather suggests that at least some of these cranes either stayed on the ground or lifted off and returned (I did not monitor them today).  But there does seem to be noticeably more tonight than last night.  – Jim

Saturday, April 4  – No count
Sorry, had to celebrate Jim W  turn really old so we weren’t around

Sunday, April 5 –
Also saw my first Canvasback of the season and three white geese that were hard to determine until they flew overhead – no Dick Cheney snear on the bill so they were Ross’s  Goose.

EVENING: 300 to 600
WHAT??  Simple – there were close to 600 at 6:30 pm and only half that at 7:45.  I don’t know what happened , but I am trying to contact someone who might have been watching. – Jim

Monday, April 6
MORNING –  @ 500
Around 9:00 am there were more than the 300 – it looks like a bunch had gone into the tall grasses beyond what was evident last night.  – Jim

EVENING –  1,000 +
This is the probably the beginning of the end of this spring’s Sandhill Crane migration.  – A warm, windless evening with lots of other waterfowl to watch.
(Evelyn Horn’s phone message said she estimated 600 cranes tonight.] – Jim

Tuesday, April 7 – 850+
The kind of spring weather we all (cranes included) have been waiting for!  -Jim

Wednesday, April 8  – 300ish

Thursday, April 9 – 125
(According to Evelyn Horn)

(236 counted the next morning)

Friday, April 10 – 180
Most were very late arrivals.

Saturday, April 11 – 32+

Sunday, April 12 –  5
(At 7:10 pm saw 20 cranes flying towards the Grand Mesa)

Monday, April 13 – 80+
[Sorry -out of town so no timely report – Loons have been reported by the dam.]

Tuesday, April 14 – ?
[Sorry – no chance for a count yet]

Wednesday, April 15 – 18
The best I could do -extreme wind – whitecaps on the reservoir.

PARKING:  PLEASE find a place to park that is off the pavement and PLEASE do not set up your tipods on the pavement!    The Sheriff’s Department join many of us with concern about safety from irresponsible  behavior on the county road (drivers and bird watchers) while crane watching.

General disclaimer:

We try to count Cranes around sunset 
to include the late arrivals, 
and to provide you with an idea 
of how many birds you may encounter 
the next morning at “liftoff” (usually
between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m daylight savings time).

Crane counts are estimates of what 
was seen by one or more observers. 
The bigger the number of Cranes counted
the less likely the number is accurate.

These numbers are most useful 
when looked at as relative numbers 
of Cranes from day to day.

Sometimes the counts we post
in the evening are modified the 
next morning when we feel more
confident with the accuracy of
the morning count.

at, or adjacent to, the RESERVOIR: 

American Bald Eagle
American Coot
Northern Pintail
Canada Goose
Western Meadowlark
Common Raven
Red-shafted Flicker
Common Merganser
Red-tailed Hawk
Great Blue Heron
Red-winged Blackbird
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Brown-headed Cowbird
European Starling
Northern Harrier
Swan  (Trumpeter?)
Ring-necked Pheasant
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler (nm)
American Kestrel (nm)
American Robin
American Avocet
Mourning Dove
Ring-Necked Duck
Double-Crested Cormorant
Western Grebe
Bonaparte’s Gull (nm&bd)
Ross’s Goose
Golden Eagle
Red-necked Grebe
Eurasion Collared  Dove
Violet-green Swallow