Kachemak Crane Watch is hoping to gather as many citizen scientists as possible to help count cranes in the Homer area. There are two more chances for crane spotting before they migrate.
Kachemak Crane Watch is running two studies in tandem: a nesting, ecology study and a population survey in the area. Crane Watch Co-Founder Nina Faust said the best way to get the population information has been to enlist your everyday, average Joe.
“What we’re asking people to do is when they see cranes, note the number of adults, the number of colts, if there are any banded ones, where the location was that they were seen and the time of day,” she said.
The remaining official count day is Sept. 9. Faust said really anybody is qualified to take part. But there is one distinction they need to be sure of, which is an adult crane and which is a colt.
“So the main thing to look for to identify a colt is that the colt will not have red on its head. It will be golden in color… and it will have a dark eye, rather than the golden, yellow eye that the adult has. And their beak is a little bit lighter,” Faust said.
She said another difference is the sound the colts make.
“They just kind of make this little cheeping sound.”
Faust said her interest in the cranes stems from their intricate dances, distinct calls, beauty and their social interaction. She said there are similarities between the way a crane family unit operates and a human family.
“Because they do all the same stuff we do. They make sure they’re safe. They find them good places to sleep at night. They make sure they get food all day long. They make sure they’re warm and dry when it’s inclement weather, and they attend to their every need practically,” she said.
Faust said she’s also noticed that cranes have tended to adapt to their environment here in the Homer area. Not only are they able to handle predators like eagles, but they’ve grown accustomed to people.
“It appears that our Sandhill Cranes have adapted to live in neighborhoods with people who they find are trustworthy. So if there are neighborhood dogs wandering they chase the dogs off. Eagles are passing over they maybe stand next to them and wave their arms and make noise. I’ve had numerous stories from people around the community who have cranes nesting in their area that their cranes sort of tend to gravitate towards them when there’s a threat,” Faust said.
She said that might be Homer-centric. She hasn’t heard of that kind of behavior in other areas where cranes are as common. Faust said she usually has a nice little group on her property. She lays out corn for the birds every day to help prepare them for their upcoming 2,400-mile migration.
If anyone is interested in helping with the population count, they can send their sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 235-6262. You’ll need to include the number of adults, colts or banded cranes by location and day. Faust said the cranes will be moving on in the next few weeks, so this would be a good chance to get out and enjoy them.