Point of View: Celebrate Citizen Science Month with Crane Watch

April is Citizen Science Month, an opportunity for people to get involved in Citizen Science projects all over the country and right in their own communities! In Homer, Alaska there are opportunities to do Citizen Science, not just in April, but pretty much year- round.

Kachemak Crane Watch has been handling citizen science sandhill crane reporting every summer for over 20 years. KCW keeps track of crane arrival dates, nesting dates, hatching of colts, colt fledging, colt and crane mortality, and all manner of crane observations throughout the summer. The reports received, especially from cooperators who have cranes living nearby, help each year in figuring out the nesting success of our local cranes. This is a valuable local community citizen science project and helps Kachemak Crane Watch monitor the annual nesting success of the local crane population. Kachemak Crane Watch reports its citizen science information in annual Kachemak Bay sandhill crane summaries that are shared online and with the North American Crane Working Group.

Kachemak Crane Watch also hosts Count Days at the end of August and early September as the cranes are gathering for migration. For three consecutive Saturdays, residents are asked to report crane sightings all day and then to visit Beluga Slough in the evening to count the cranes as they fly in to roost providing residents and visitors the opportunity to help count cranes each Saturday evening with local birders and resident craniacs.

Other opportunities to participate in Citizen Science projects can be found with many local organizations like the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, Kachemak Bay Birders, Cook Inletkeeper, Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, and other local organizations. Projects like the Coast Walk, Shorebird Monitoring, water quality monitoring, salmon stream monitoring, and many other local projects can be an exciting way to participate in important data gathering that helps monitor our community’s environmental health.

Find your special niche and get involved in a Citizen Science project. If Sandhill Cranes excite you, send or call in your citizen science report to Kachemak Crane Watch by calling 907-235-6262, that’s 235-MAMA or email, reports@cranewatch.org. Details of your observation are helpful. Leave your name and contact information, time, location, how many cranes, behavior, and other useful and helpful details. Help us make this another successful citizen science sandhill crane summer.

Nina Faust is a Co-Founder and lead educator of Kachemak Crane Watch and a retired high school teacher. An avid hiker, self-taught naturalist, photographer, videographer, and conservation activist, Nina has spent more than a decade filming Homer’s sandhill cranes, capturing a wide variety of crane behaviors on film.