The Nebraska Nature and Visitor Center in partnership with The Crane Trust offers a Whooper Watch training session for volunteers to search for and observe highly endangered whooping cranes as they pass through Nebraska. The training session will take place at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 25th at the Nebraska Nature and Visitor Center. The session is free and open to the general public.
Around mid-April, small families of whooping cranes stop along the river and in the Rainwater Basin to feed and rest on their way from Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas to nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta and adjacent Northwest Territories. Once numbering perhaps a few thousand birds in pre-settlement times, whooping cranes were decimated by wetland loss and plumage hunters. Only 15 birds remained in the 1940's. Intensive recovery efforts have allowed this lone wild flock to grow slowly to an estimated 280 birds. If this recovery is to continue, biologists need to know more about their habits during migration. Why do they stop regularly at certain locations and not others? What do they eat while in Nebraska? Trained volunteers can help scientists answer these and other questions.
“Whooper Watch is a great example of citizen science, in which ordinary people can make valid scientific contributions,” according to NNVC Assistant Director Dan Glomski. “While seeing a whooper and reporting its behavior is obviously exciting, negative observations – that is to say, not seeing a bird – are valuable too.”
Those interested in becoming Whooper Watchers are encouraged to attend the training. For further information, please contact Dan Glomski at NNVC or Dr. Karine Gil at 308-384-4633 x 111.