by Wood Buffalo National Park staff
A total of 78 nests were located during the 2016 Whooping Crane nest survey in Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) and in crane habitat located outside the Park. The survey is a joint project between Parks Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service.
The 78 nests detected is the second highest nest count on record. 71 nests where located within WBNP and 7 nests were located outside of the Park. The highest nest count on record is 82 nests located during the 2014 nest survey.
Improved conditions on whooping crane nesting grounds
Nest numbers increased over last year’s count, when 68 nests were detected during the 2015 survey (the low number of nests detected during the 2015 nest survey is believed to have been related to the low water levels/drought in the nesting area). Nest survey results for the period 1966 to 2016 are shown in the graph below.
Conditions on the nesting grounds were much wetter in 2016 when compared with the conditions observed during the 2015 survey. Water levels on the Sass River and Klewi River were noticeably high. Over-the-bank flooding was observed along the Sass and Klewi Rivers and replenishing waters into the neighboring ponds and wetlands.
The survey was conducted over four days, May 19, 20, 22 and 23. Poor weather conditions on May 22 prevented flying. The aircraft used during survey was an ASTAR 350 B-2 Helicopter.
Personnel involved in the survey included:
– John Conkin, Wildlife Technician, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada
– Keith Hartery, Resource Management Technician, WBNP, Parks Canada
– John McKinnon, Ecosystem Geomatics Technician, WBNP, Parks Canada
– Katie McNab, Resource Management Officer, WBNP, Parks Canada
– Howard Vigneault, Helicopter Pilot, Highland Helicopters6.
Interesting observations during the survey included a total 193 cranes observed over the 4 days. Occasionally the cranes standup and/or walk off the nest mound as we circle above and we get to count the eggs. A total 37 Whooping Crane eggs were observed at 19 of the 78 nests during the survey. 18 nests had two eggs, 1 nest had one egg. (We were unable to determine the number of eggs at the other 59 Nests).
We observed one pair of Whooping Cranes that were “dancing”. One group of 3 whooping cranes was observed. A lone adult Whooping Crane was observed being harassed by 2 “dive-bombing” red-winged black birds. Two black bears were observed in the nesting grounds. And, on the last day of the survey, a raven greeted us just before take-off, posing for a picture while perched on the tail of the Helicopter.
***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.