Midwest Crane Count 2007 - Winnebago County

On April 14, 2007, twenty-six observers counted Sandhill Cranes from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. It was cold! 33º and cloudy. Most of the fifteen sites are located in the northwest quadrant of Winnebago County near the Sugar River and Pecatonica River, with a couple of sites near the Kishwaukee River in the southeast part of the county.

The International Crane Foundation (ICF) in Baraboo, Wisconsin, has sponsored the Midwest Crane Count since 1975. Members of the NCIOS have participated in the crane count here since 1995.

They either saw or heard 73 total Sandhill Cranes, and 17 breeding pairs. A pair is counted as “breeding” if they do the “unison call”. The unison call is a duet done by a breeding pair of cranes in which the male has a one-note call and the female a two-note call. It is done in synchrony. These calls can be heard for long distances. Lynda Johnson is the new coordinator. Alan Branhagan was the first count coordinator for two years. Roy Morris, long-time birder in the area, was the count coordinator for 9 years. He passed away May 8th and will be greatly missed.

The crane count has documented the growth of the Sandhill population and allows ICF to monitor crane abundance and distribution. The Winnebago County Forest Preserve District has acquired good property along the four rivers within the county. These lands provide wetland habitats crucial to crane nesting sites.

Participants also look for Whooping Cranes (very rare) migrating from Florida. None were seen on the day of the count, however, Lee and Lynda Johnson saw four Whooping Cranes flying north over their house on Yale Bridge Road on March 31st.

Why would anyone want to sit near a marsh before dawn? In addition to the excitement of looking for cranes, it is a very special time of day to be out and hear and see all the birds and frogs who begin calling at dawn. Occasionally they see a fox or other mammals as well.

Submitted by Linda Johnson - Crane Count Coordinator

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