North Queensland Crane Counts 1

This page marks the 20-year point of North Queensland Crane Counts, an annual volunteer community-based survey project of BirdLife Northern Queensland. Thank you to the many landowners who allowed access to their properties each year, and congratulations to the hundreds of BirdLife Australia members, other Queenslanders and visitors who contributed across 20 years.

The paper on 21 years of Crane Counts is now in production in Australian Field Ornithology. Elinor C. Scambler, Timothy D. Nevard, Graham N. Harrington, E. Ceinwen Edwards, Virginia Simmonds and Donald C. Franklin, ‘Numbers, distribution and behaviour of Sarus Cranes Antigone a. gillae and Brolgas A. rubicunda at wintering roosts on the Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland, Australia’. Ozcranes News will update as soon as the paper is online.

In Crane Counts 2», Ozcranes reprints details of a 2005 conference presentation by Elinor Scambler on Sarus Crane issues and Count results.

Crane Count team

Crane Count, early evening (Sandy Carroll)

BackgroundFrom 1997 BirdLife Northern Queensland members and friends, with the north Queensland community, counted Brolgas and Sarus Cranes across the region from late afternoon on the first Saturday of September (October, to 2009). People gathered at swamps, dams and wetlands to count cranes flying in to roost for the night. This was the first systematic survey program established in Australia for Sarus Cranes. Centered on the Atherton Tablelands, the counts take advantage of the cranes' dry season (non-breeding) flocking behaviour. In the Wet season they nest as isolated pairs in almost inaccessible flooded plains. The study was designed by Elinor Scambler, who managed the project for BirdLife 1997-2009 and acted as Coordinator to 2008. Alan Gillanders was interim Coordinator for 2009, and from 2010 the project was managed by Graham Harrington with Virginia Simmonds and Ceinwen Edwards (Southern Tablelands) as Coordinators. Analysis and write-up for 20 years of data is now in progress, see contacts below.

AchievementsThe surveys have confirmed the predominance of Sarus Cranes on the wetter Tablelands, with most Brolgas occupying roosts in the drier south and north. The study has produced valuable data on crane numbers, pre-roosting movement patterns and roost habitat in north Queensland, and the Count and its related activities have increased knowledge and interest in crane ecology and conservation in the region. Preliminary data have contributed to a series of national and international conservation plans including IUCN reviews, and supported the declaration of the Atherton Tablelands Key Biodiversity Area». For people, the Crane Count has become a highlight of the year where people connect with cranes, each other and the environment.

The next stageBirdLife Northern Queensland will continue Crane Counts with a new series starting September 2017.

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For general enquiries and the new series of Crane Counts from 2017, visit BirdLife Northern Queensland or email the Crane Count Co-ordinators

For enquiries specifically related to the 20-year survey analysis and forthcoming paper, please contact Elinor Scambler

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