2015 Sandhill Crane Counts

Crane Counts for Fruitgrowers Reservoir at Hart’s Basin

CRANE COUNTS for 2015            

Welcome to the Crane Count page.  To reference previous years’ crane counts, click to the desired year from the menu at the top of the page.  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 so and we can include them with our reports.    When I receive information and permission to publish phone numbers and events or other links, I will do so.  Evelyn Horn continues her hotline at 970/835-8391 for crane numbers and other bird sightings.

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 15  (Wednesday)   5.     Same five cranes?  I have my suspicions.    It’s time to hang up the crane count for this Spring.   I won’t be going to the reservoir for nightly reports but I will try to update the other species list from time to time.  Of course if I hear of any interesting crane observations I will pass them along here.

Best wishes,   J.D.

April 14  (Tuesday)   No Count    I wasn’t able to go to the reservoir this evening, but Jim Wallace emailed me that he saw 10 cranes in flight along the reservoir at 6:30  Wednesday morning.

April 13  (Monday)   5.    Arrived at 7:50 pm

April 12  (Sunday)    0.  

April 11  (Saturday)    0.  

April 10  (Friday)    15.  What I saw after sunset:  Cranes walking on shore.  Marbled Godwits under foot.  Northern Grebes dancing.

April 9  (Thursday)  0.  After four days of high winds today was a nice break from all that.  If any cranes were waiting for a day when they didn’t have to fight a headwind, today would have been it.  So I am thinking that this Spring’s Sandhill Crane migration through Fruitgrowers is over.  I’ll check a couple of more nights (more for new bird species for this year than for cranes) and report here what I see here and in the ‘Other Species’ page.

April 8  (Wednesday)  2

April 7  (Tuesday)   9.  

April 6  (Monday)    11.  (I originally posted zero for the count and didn’t find until the next morning Jim Wallace’s text that he saw more birds than I did.)

April 5  (Sunday)   2.  Is this Spring’s migration winding down early?  Everything else about this Spring seems different, most notably no 2,000+ days and the three 1,000+ days were clustered within four days in the middle of March.  Normally we expect a bi-modal curve instead of this year’s bell curve.  Anyway, we’ll keep watching and counting until we give up.

April 4  (Saturday)   16.  [Jim Wallace counted 25 early the next (Sunday) morning.]  The last group of 9 landed at 7:38.

April 3  (Friday)   1.  I am pretty sure it wasn’t a GB Heron.

April 2   (Thursday)   6.  Another day when the flag on the pole at the post office looked more like cardboard than fabric.  This count was at 7:30 as they were walking to the cattails.  Five minutes before then I thought I saw 8; 5 minutes after I couldn’t see any.

April 1   (Wednesday)   40 – 45. A blustery day with the first of the sand dust from the southwest obscuring the Uncompaghre.

March 31  (Tuesday)   240 – 270.  This is a consensus of three different guesses.

March 30  (Monday)   150.  

March 29  (Sunday)   340-350.  Another nice evening.

March 28   (Saturday)   800.  And probably a few more as several small groups kept coming from who knows where until 7:45 pm or so.  The diligent Nancy M. [I don’t have a release to provide a full identity] with her daughter [who likewise will not be disclosed at this time] counted EVERY  crane that landed and came up with 795.   So there you have it.   –  A day almost too perfect at Fruitgrowers Reservoir.

March 27  (Friday)   240.  For all the perfect days we have had this season, tonight along “the causeway” there were grumbles about not having a really big day by now (e.g. 3,000).  Sure wish somebody could predict cranes; but until that person comes along we’ll just have to show up and take our chances on being in Hart’s Basin when the big mob of cranes arrive.

March 26  (Thursday)   450 +/-. -About 175 came in after 7:00 p.m from a higher altitude.  A beautiful evening.

March 25  (Wednesday)   27. – Not surprised about this small a number with the winter weather.

March 24  (Tuesday)   250+. – This is Jim Wallace’s number.  I couldn’t find more than 210, but he had more time to look and better light than I did.

March 23  (Monday)   300. – Perhaps a few more. [325 +/- 25 based on the Tuesday morning count by Jim W.]  The blustery weather inclined several cranes towards shelter and thus out of view.

March 22  (Sunday)    600. [Wallace & Horn]

March 21  (Saturday)    700. [Jim Wallace’s number.]

March 20  (Friday)    85. [Evie Horn & Jim Wallace’s number.]

March 19  (Thursday)    16.    Some days are like this.  Monte Vista was a bit colder than Eckert today but I don’t know if that explains what happened.  The geese seemed pleased that they had the roost pretty much to themselves.

March 18  (Wednesday)    500+  [650 was Jim Wallace’s Thursday morning count.]  The other question is how many of these came today and how many were here last night.  The rainy weather (here) may have had an influence.  It’s obvious that at most of them left, so if I get an observer’s report that they all left this morning I’ll modify this entry.

March 17  (Tuesday)    1,300 – 1,500  Cranes everywhere.  To get this estimate we waited until past dark and cranes still kept flying in low.    We quit before they did.  We’ll try a count in the morning to see how realistic this is.  Nonetheless tomorrow morning should be great fun!

March 16  (Monday)    700  [650 count Tuesday morning]   This is a wild guess.  Before I left I told folks I thought about 600, but the very last count looked a lot more like 700.  Jim Wallace will make an early morning count and I will adjust this figure based on what he sees.  Today’s cranes were all over the north side of North Road – way out in fields and in the tall grasses and cattails and many didn’t come to water until very late. 

March 15  (Sunday)    1,100, +/- 50.    Weather Very similar to yesterday. 

Starting around 4:00 p.m. at least three flocks of cranes bypassed Fruitgrowers.  The largest group I saw – about 200 cranes – (I only heard the other two groups – but they “sounded smaller”) spiraled up and flew west along the southern slopes of the Grand Mesa at 4:40 pm.

March 14  (Saturday)    1,300.*        Although I couldn’t come up with much more than 1,200,  Jim Wallace spent more time looking and counting so I am using his number.     * Modified from the original report of 1,500. by J.W. after his count Sunday morning.

This evening Jim also mentioned another number – 35mph.  I did not notice, until he told me, that the North Road speed limit across the reservoir is no longer 45 mph.  It will take a while before bird watchers are 10 mph safer and we should remain vigilant for the traffic who need to use the road and who, like me, have not yet noticed the speed reduction. 

March 13  (Friday)    210.    This is Jim Wallace’s number, because he had the time to study them flying around and count them while they tried to avoid the afternoon winds in the cattails.  During my brief visit around 7:00 pm I could only see (to count) about half that number.

March 12  (Thursday)    53.    That was all I could find at 7:10 pm.  A much cooler day with no sunshine.

March 11  (Wednesday)    500, at least,  (I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a couple dozen more.)   Most of  the cranes flew from the fields to the water not long before dark.  When I left at 7:35 small groups were still leaking in.  It was a very still evening and all you could hear were crane calls and meadowlark songs – even the geese had shut up to listen.

March 10  (Tuesday)    370,  +/- 20.    It took until 7:30 pm when the cranes left the far southwestern corn stubble field and flew back to water and provided an opportunity for a count. (instead of just a guess – which was going to be about 240). 

These are new birds; last night’s cranes left around 10:00 am this morning, giving folks in Cedaredge a thrill.

March 9 (Monday)   400 +/-    THESE must be cranes migrating from the SLV (San Luis Valley).  Nancy Marsh watched them land from a very high elevation.  Mountain Mike sent a message that today sometime after 2:00 pm he started seeing the first of about 20 groups of cranes flying over Blue Mesa Reservoir “heading down stream.”   The groups he saw were “anywhere from 20 in a group to a couple of hundred. ”  My guess that at least some of these birds landed in Hart’s Basin.  – Thanks, Mountain Mike.

And thanks, Nancy, for, in addition to telling me that the canes had come in, letting me know that a solitary Trumpeter Swan had also arrived and was hanging out with the cranes and geese.  I missed Evie by the time I got there, but saw Jim Wallace, where we concluded that the other had wintered well.  He, Nancy and I reached a consensus on the crane count.

It was a beautiful night at Fruitgrowers.  It seems that Eckert Crane Days has started again!

 March 8 (Sunday45.  Saw them around 4:30 p.m. landing near Western shore.  Don’t know if they are migrants or local.  This is my first formal Crane reconnaissance for 2015.     The Reservoir is completely full and there are a few birds to see. [I am starting a 2015 Other Species Spotted Page as well.]

We spent a couple of days of the last week of February at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico – just for a change of scenery.  The wintering cranes had left there, although a couple hundred Sandhills were dawdling or arriving late from further south.  On the 27th were did a drive-by at the Monte Vista N.W.R. after a clearing snow storm where we saw several thousand relatively close to the road in the SW corner of the Refuge.  Reports from there at the time put their estimate at around 20,000 Greater Sandhill Cranes.

Other Species Sighted in 2015

Bird (and Other) Species seen around Fruitgrowers Reservoir – 2015

      • Northern Harrier
      • Northern Pintail
      • Mallard
      • Common Merganser
      • Canada Geese
      • Western Meadowlark
      • Coot
      • Great Blue Heron
      • American Wigeon
      • Red-winged Blackbird
      • Black-billed Magpie
      • Redhead
      • Common Raven
      • Ringed-neck Duck
      • European Starling
      • Common Crow
      • Cinnamon Teal
      • Mourning Dove
      • Trumpeter Swan
      • Northern Shoveler
      • Bald Eagle
      • Belted Kingfisher
      • Mountain Bluebird
      • Chipping Sparrow
      • Ringed-billed Gull
      • Franklin’s Gull
      • Double Crested Cormorant
      • Killdeer
      • Greater Yellowlegs
      • Osprey
      • Song Sparrow
      • Pied-billed Grebe
      • Black-capped Chickadee
      • Western Grebe
      • Blue-winged Teal
      • Willet
      • Greater Scaup
      • Great Horned Owl
      • Wild Turkey
      • American Avocet
      • Common Goldeneye
      • Gadwall
      • Lesser Scaup
      • Lesser Snow Goose
      • Golden Eagle
      • Red-tailed Hawk
      • American Robin
      • Forester’s Tern
      • (something called the “Grumble Grouse”)
      • Clark’s Grebe
      • Ruddy Duck
      • Bufflehead
      • American Kestrel
      • Red-breasted Merganser
      • Green-winged Teal
      • American White Pelican
      • Marbled Godwit
      • Long-billed Curlew
      • Yellow-headed Blackbird
      • White-faced Ibis
      • Bonaparte’s Gull
      • Lesser Yellowlegs
      • Flicker – Red-shafted

This is a rather informal list of my casual observations, and from what other trusted birders have told me [what they report is in italics].  Started March 8.

Also of interest:

Peregrine Falcon – mid-Febuary