~ The 12th North American Crane Workshop ~  

The 12th North American Crane Workshop held its first-ever joint meeting with the Waterbird Society on March 14-16, 2011, in Grand Island, Nebraska.  Our gathering coincided with one of the greatest migratory spectacles of North America – the spring staging of more than 500,000 sandhill cranes, 100,000s of snow geese, and 10,000s of other waterfowl along the Platte River.  Large numbers of cranes and geese were readily observed from roads throughout the area, and participants had many opportunities to view the masses of sandhill cranes departing from their roosts in the early morning or their arrival at dusk from viewing blinds.

The joint meeting included more than 180 participants from across North America as well as from Russia, Germany, France, Netherlands, and Australia.  Joint technical sessions encompassed presentations of 128 papers and 34 posters of crane and waterbird ecology, populations, and research methods.  These included 32 oral presentations and 14 posters on cranes.  Susan Skagen gave a plenary presentation on Climate change and prairie wetlands:  implications for migratory birds, and Gary Krapu gave a plenary presentation on The role of the central Platte River Valley to the midcontinent population of sandhill cranes.  Special sessions and symposia were held on climate change, freshwater resources, and waterbirds; species reintroductions; ecology of migration; local movements and roosting habits of waterbirds; playa wetland ecology; monitoring programs; black tern science and management; plover management and conservation; and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  The intermixing of crane and waterbird papers provided great opportunities to exchange information and ideas among colleagues new and old.  Further opportunities to networking and simple socializing were provided each evening at ‘the barn’ at the Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust, where we enjoyed dinner and microbrews.  The location also provided great opportunities to watch the cranes coming in to the nearby river roost.  On the 15th, NACWG members toured along the Platte River, and had lunch on the river’s edge.  Staff from the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program explained the history and current efforts by the Program to manage water, monitor habitat and birds, and restore roosting and nesting habitat for cranes, least terns, and piping plovers.  At the evening banquet on the 16th, we recognized Brian Johns with the L. H. Walkinshaw Award for his lifetime contributions to the monitoring and conservation of whooping cranes and sandhill cranes.  NACWG awards for the best student oral presentations were Laura Navarrete, Texas Tech University, Effects of wind farms on wintering Sandhill Cranes in the Southern High Plains of Texas (first place); and to Jessica Henkel, Tulane University Evaluation of the genetic management of the endangered Mississippi Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis pulla) and Megan Brown, University of Maryland, Chromic oxide as a fecal marker to identify individual Whooping Cranes (tied for second).  Similar awards were given by the Waterbird Society for student presentations and posters.

The Members Business Meeting was held at the conclusion of the technical sessions on the 16th.  Newsletter editor Daryl Henderson and Webmaster Ingrid Barcelo were recognized for their contributions.  The NACWG is now a member of the Ornithological Council, a public information organization established and supported by 12 Western Hemisphere ornithological societies.  Tracy Grazia, who has ably served as secretary for 7 years, has stepped from the Executive Board.  Gay Gomez, Associate Professor of Geography at McNeese University of Lake Charles, LA, was elected to the board to replace Tracy.  Board members in new terms are Jane Austin (President), Richard Urbanek (Vice-President), Glenn Olsen (Treasurer), and Gay Gomez (Secretary).  Felipe Chavez-Ramirez, Barry Hartup, and Marilyn Spalding serve as board members at-large.  Members supported consideration of meeting again in 3 years at either Chattanooga, Tennessee (near an important staging area for sandhill cranes and eastern-population of whooping cranes) or Louisiana (near the new re-introduction site for whooping cranes).

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Crane viewing in Nebraska   Workshop participants in Nebraska  
Photo: © J. Austin   Photo: © J. Austin
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