Canada: Nesting Has Begun!
May 14, 2010
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1. How many nests does Lea expect to find?

2. How long will it take to fly over all the whooping crane breeding areas?

3. Why are so many new territories suddenly available?

Lea Craig-Moore Reports from Canada:

Today (May 14) I'm off to Wood Buffalo National Park! Judging by YAY's recent locations in the park, it looks likes nesting has begun! (YAY is the GPS-banded female of a breeding pair.)

How Many Nests?
We are expecting an average number of nests this year in and around Wood Buffalo National Park. In recent years there have been between 60 and 65 nests. Winter snow cover was less than normal this year, so we are anticipating a slight reduction in water levels. Luckily water levels were high at the end of the season last year so nesting conditions should not be impacted too much.

Finding and Counting the Nests
Our first aerial survey of the breeding cranes will take place on May 16th. Weather pending, we expect it to take about 20 hours of flying, or 7 flights, to cover all the whooping crane breeding areas. Last nesting season, after several adults died at Aransas, we found several core territories empty in Wood Buffalo NP. It will be interesting to see if new pairs are adventuresome and aggressive enough to take advantage of the available "real estate" and claim the former territories as their own. By this time next week we should have our curiosity answered!
UPDATE May 30: 74 nests were found during airplane surveys in and around Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park. Lea noted that only four 2009 territories were without a nest this year. Water conditions are terrific and all marshes appear to be full. The 74 nests found beat the previous record of 66 nests (in 2008), and also last year’s nest total of 62. What exciting and encouraging news. Lea said fledging surveys and the new program of banding some juveniles will begin the first week of August.

Lea Craig-Moore
Wildlife Technician | Technicienne de la faune
Environment Canada | Environnement Canada
Canadian Wildlife Service
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada