2014 Sandhill Crane Counts

2014 Crane Counts

CRANE COUNTS for 2014             

(Hart’s Basin Crane Hotline 970/835-8391 is another source of crane counts.  This is operated by Evelyn Horn.  GO TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE FOR EVEY’S FINAL TALLY FOR THE SEASON)

Welcome to the Crane Count page.  To reference previous years’ crane counts, scroll to the bottom.  We would also like to know how many cranes and different species of birds you witnessed when visiting Fruitgrowers Reservoir.  Please leave your counts in comment section at the bottom of this page and we’ll be sure to include those that contribute to our collective understanding.    When I receive information and permission to publish phone numbers and events or other links, I will do so.   Thanks!   – Jim Durr

In the Spring, SANDHILL CRANES tend to land at the Reservoir after 3:30 p.m (MDT) and may land as late as sunset, and on rare special nights have been known to land after dark.  Liftoff generally occurs after 9:00 am (MDT) – usually after the mid-morning winds provide an uplift to help give them the elevation to clear the Grand Mesa.




April 19  (Saturday) –   15

April 18  (Friday) –   13 (early count)

April 17  (Thursday) –   15?

April 16  (Wednesday) –   22  (Probably the same Cranes as yesterday, according to Jim Wallace.  – Thanks, Jim)

April 15  (Tuesday) –   22

April 14  (Monday) –   42  – Probably 22 new and 20 holdovers.

April 13  (Sunday) –   65  – From an early afternoon count 

April 12  (Saturday) –   69 

April 11  (Friday) –   62  (52 are probably new birds according to Jim Wallace.)

April 10  (Thursday) –   93

April 9  (Wednesday) –   63

April 8  (Tuesday) –   350

April 7 (Monday) –   33    The Western Grebes were the bigger show tonight.

April 6 (Sunday) –   86  –  Total of three small groups  

April 5 (Saturday) –   145   

April 4 (Friday) –   1,000    –  Or close to it.   I was quite comfortable with a 930 count and then at the last minute found another 17 in the far eastern end.  And I can’t be sure I saw them all, so I’m going with 1,000 for tonight and see if tomorrow morning reveals something different.    When I got in tonight I found an email from Jim Wallace and he told me that he thinks, of the Cranes he counted earlier in the evening, 850 are new arrivals. 

Is this the last big show of the season?  The past several days I have been counseling a few folks who have asked that we are at the end of the Sandhill Crane migration,    and to not expect more than a couple of hundred Cranes at a time.   –  After this bunch leaves I will resume my earlier advice . . . but I am not a Crane, so what do I know?

April 3 (Thursday) –   26    –  Just when I concluded there were no Cranes tonight, this group flew in low and noiselessly across the road and landed in the Northeast pond area.  It was 7:41 pm.  

April 2 (Wednesday) – 67    –  I saw 44, but this is Jim Wallace’s number.

April 1 (Tuesday) – 65    –  I don’t know where they spent last night.

March 31 (Monday) – 88 This is Evey’s number.  I saw only 68.

March 30 (Sunday) – 1,500  +/-200.  – And if a Monday morning count revealed even more I would not be surprised.  I don’t know how many of these are hold-overs from yesterday.  The weather was overcast and calm until 1:30 when it started blowing hard and constantly, and has been ever since.  The Count at around 7:00 p.m. had lots of Cranes in the bushes and the majority of them, which were in Vela’s plowed field, were making a lot of noise but not moving.  Around 7:10- 7:45 the Cranes flew to roost from all directions with a restlessness and speed I have not seen before.  It was a miserable but fascinating evening.

March 29 (Saturday) – 1,200 +     Quite  a few later arrivals – This was the 6:40 pm count.  [1,400 was the morning Count]

March 28 (Friday) – 125

March 27 (Thursday) – 1,500 – This is Evelyn Horn’s report.  I checked too early and saw only 800 or so at that time.   [See update below.  It will be interesting to see how many leave this morning given the weather.- evening: and I still don’t know who left and who is new.]

March 26 (Wednesday)  2,000 to 2,500  –  [UPDATE:  Jim Wallace’s followup count Thursday morning was 2,350 +/-]  This was a crazy day weather-wise and this evening was no different.  You can tell from the range of the estimate tonight that this question too will be better settled in the morning, and Jim Wallace hopes to provide just that service.   It is most likely that many of these birds were here yesterday – whether they tried to leave and turned back – or never tried to go at all.  It definitely does appear that there are more Cranes tonight than last night.

March 25 (Tuesday)  1,250   –  [UPDATE:  Jim Wallace’s followup count Wednesday morning was 1,700.  These morning counts are better conditions for counting than during the more chaotic evening counts.]    I had a comfortable count of 1,150 of Cranes on the ground, but after watching the late flights to roost for the night I felt like I had under counted.  Evelyn came in with a count of 1,300.  A beautiful evening.

March 24 (Monday)  118   – At least.  Count based on cranes landing after 7:30 pm.

March 23 (Sunday)  730   – Picked up a couple hundred late fly-ins long after sunset.

March 22 (Saturday)  400 +  – JW’s followup count Friday morning was 550.   My count at 7:30 pm when it was quite cold and prematurely dark.   Evey’s message was that this morning’s cranes “were still with us” and she has the count at 500.

March 21 (Friday)  500 +/-  (Note:  Jim Wallace Saturday morning count put it at 600 Cranes) Many groups – some in places difficult to see, so this is more an estimate than an actual count – even after staying late with veteran Crane counter Jim Wallace.

This morning:  Lots of watchers to see lots of cranes.  My Wisconsin friend, Michael Gay, who lives around Sandhill Cranes and worked on Cranes in Cuba with George Archibald was able to stay long enough to watch liftoff in shear numbers greater that he has experienced, and in the beauty of the incomparable Hart’s Basin.  Watching him watch the Cranes made liftoff even more fun for me.  Safe travels, Michael.

A little later in the morning l had the chance to return to the Reservoir to catch up with Jeff and Wendy Brigham, who were able to stop by and reaffirm the specialness of the place.  Jeff made memorable presentations in past Crane Days events and has long been associated with the Aldo Leopold Foundation and the International Crane Foundation.  Special places attract special people.

March 20 (Thursday)  3,000   Maybe more.  Here it is!  One of those special nights of the migration season    . . .  To be followed by a special morning. 

Friday Morning:   Please be safe along the road – It’s easy to be caught up in the excitement – but don’t forget it is a public road and others who are unable to stop to watch the cranes need to use it as well.  

March 19 (Wednesday)  400 This a count I received from Evelyn.  I left around 6:30 pm and saw only about 60.  It is not unusual to get late arrivals like that.  Another observation:  around 5:00 pm or so about 125 Cranes spiraled up a half mile west of Highway 65 to head over the Grand Mesa.  It was such a fine evening I could understand why they weren’t ready to quit for the day – but it was unusual.

March 18 (Tuesday)  7 –  (or nine – it was dark early tonight.  Jeanne says HI to friends and colleagues at UCCS and wishes she had more thrilling results to report!

March 17 (Monday)  0 –  Saw about a half dozen around 3:45 – before the wind really got going.   At 7:30 I check all the sheltered spaces and found no Cranes.

March 16 (Sunday)  7 – Nothing until these landed about 7:20 pm or so.  Each day is different.

March 15 (Saturday)  900 +/-   This was a count well after sunset as the cranes flew in low from nearby fields – not direct arrivals dropping out of the skies upon concluding a day’s flight from the South.  In fact I am not sure how many of these birds are holdovers from yesterday.  This morning many of them disappointed watchers by refusing to leave by their customary time.  As I left around 11:50 am or so, there were many Cranes still earnestly grazing on Velas’ cornfield.  – I must admit I was not vigilant most of the afternoon to know how many actually left to go North.

Tonight, the few of us that did stay were treated to an Ides of March that featured  pink and orange skies to the West, a very full moon above the alpenglow on the West Elks to the East, and crisp quiet air that allowed every crane that had something to say to be heard as they glided overhead to roost at the water’s edge of the Northwest pond.

March 14 (Friday)  650 +/-    [900 – Evey Horn and Jim Wallace concluded that this was their number for the evening – sometimes it is easy to miss a mob here and there, so I offer you both counts.]

March 13 (Thursday)  30

March 12 (Wednesday)  750  –  at least  –  there may be as many as 900 or so.  They had all landed by 6:45 p.m. when I arrived.  Many were in the cattails and tall vegetation, making the count very difficult.   They were North of the Road and West of the ditch.        Thursday Morning Followup:  Around 10:30 I went out to see how many Cranes were visible.  There were over 200 further away North Road than from where I saw Cranes last night.  Another group of at least twice that size were grazing far east of the first group and were not visible from North Road.   So, based on what I saw this morning, I am more comfortable with the 750 number, acknowledging that when cranes move around after sunrise some others may go even farther afield.   (I left at 10:45 so did not stay around for liftoff, so I don’t have a time for that.)     Second Thursday Morning Item:  This morning on KVNF I heard that this website is providing information about Eckert Crane Days that some folks are formalizing for March 21-23.  I, and this website, are not involved with that effort and I know very little about it.  May I recommend you revisit the home page for my attitude about Eckert Crane Days this year.  (Evelyn Horn’s presentation is mentioned at the top of this page because she asked and she is a friend.)  – Thanks, Jim Durr

March 11 (Tuesday)  75    – Cold, blustery evening

March 10 (Monday)  125   They arrived in two groups at 6:30 and 6:40 p.m.

March 9 (Sunday)  40.  (Although I initially reported no Cranes that evening, Evelyn let me know that these birds were in the NE ponds, where I was parked at sunset and saw none.  Sceptically, I checked the Reservoir Monday morning and still saw none in that area, but did see about that many in Vela’s little corn field when I left to check out the Heron rookery.)

March 8 (Saturday)    No Cranes spotted, although a few were heard in the vicinity.

This is my first formal Crane reconnaissance.     I am happy to report that the Reservoir is completely full and there are plenty of birds to see. [check the Other Species Spotted Page.]

March 7 (Friday)  5  From Evelyn

March 6 (Thursday) 7 From Evelyn

March 5 (Wednesday) 30 Cranes – From Evelyn

March 4 (Tuesday) 300 Cranes – I got this number through Evelyn  Horn.  This is a very early start for migrating Cranes (they are believed to be migrators and not Winter residents).  I also received a report that day from Wendy in Palisade of a group of Cranes overhead heading North.



Counts concluded on April 15, 2014
Total landed at the Basin = 15,067
Total counted at Escalante Wildlife Area = 5,525
Total reported in flight = 728
A small flock has appeared repeatedly since April 15: three to fifteen including our crane with the injured leg, known locally as “hop-along”.
Last season we had 13,294 at Hart’s Basin.
Each year we wonder about the Escalate-winter-flock cranes coming to the Basin and then returning to Escalante! Separating them from the true migrants would require extensive observation: like continuously watching the behaviors all day long! 
Evey Horn
April 25, 2014
[hot-line is completed]