Special to 1812Blockhouse

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife is seeking volunteers for the fourth annual Midwest Crane Count on the morning of Saturday, April 13. The Division of Wildlife is collaborating with the International Crane Foundation and Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative to conduct the survey.

This year’s crane count takes place in 32 counties, including Richland County. These locations host habitats where sandhill cranes typically nest such as wet meadows, shallow marshes, bogs, and other wetlands.

Ohioans interested in volunteering should contact a county coordinator. The time commitment includes the time it takes to scout an area, a virtual training, and the morning count. Birders of all abilities who can identify a sandhill crane can participate. A vehicle is also required. Participation in pairs and some experience using the eBird community science platform is preferred.

The sandhill crane is listed as threatened in Ohio, but its population has increased in recent years. Sandhills are secretive during their nesting season, and the count is an effort to better track Ohio’s breeding crane population. A sandhill crane is a tall wading bird characterized by a long neck and bill. It is mostly gray in plumage with a red patch on its forehead. It is often recognized by its rolling bugle call.

In 2021, the inaugural count found 160 sandhill cranes in five northeast Ohio counties. The survey has grown in each ensuing year. Last year, volunteers observed 357 sandhill cranes in 30 counties.

Ohio’s cranes are seasonal residents that migrate south for the winter. They feed during daylight hours on grain, insects, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. They migrate at high elevations in large flocks, often composed of hundreds of birds. The range of these native birds extends from Mexico and Florida into Alaska and Canada, depending on the season.

Wildlife enthusiasts can support sandhill cranes by purchasing an Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp. All of the stamp’s proceeds go to wildlife conservation, with most benefitting species of greatest conservation need through the Wildlife Diversity Fund. This fund supports habitat restoration, wildlife and habitat research projects, creation of free wildlife educational materials, as well as efforts to restore and conserve endangered and threatened species. The legacy stamp can be purchased online through Ohio’s Wildlife Licensing System and at any location that sells hunting and fishing licenses.

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