Platte River Recovery Implementation Program News

July 10, 2018

Each summer the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (Program) and its partners survey the river and off-channel nesting habitat to document least tern and piping plover abundance and productivity within the Associated Habitat Area (AHR) for the Program. Monitoring typically occurs from 1 May – 1 August; however, the monitoring season has been extended when least terns or piping plovers are known to be within the AHR outside of this range of dates.

Similar to previous years, there was a good distribution of nests across off-channel sand and water (OCSW) and sandpit sites throughout the AHR, but no in-channel nesting was observed during 2018. Numbers of breeding pairs observed during 2018 was high and similar to previous years when the Program ceased adding any more off-channel nesting habitat. 2018 was a successful year for least tern nests and chicks as 70% (78 of 112) of least tern nests hatched which resulted in an overall fledge ratio of 1.46 fledglings per breeding pair. Piping plover nests were highly successful as well with 74% (35 of 47) of nests hatching; however, chick success was poor which resulted in an all-time low of 0.65 fledglings per breeding pair for piping plovers.

Least tern and piping plover breeding pair counts and productivity, 2001-2018.

Breeding pair counts for both species were similar to the previous few years when the Program last made any substantial increases in the availability of off-channel nesting habitat (top plot).  While fledge ratios for least terns (middle plot) was high during 2018, piping plover chicks struggled which resulted in an all-time low fledge ratio for piping plovers (bottom plot).

July 10, 2018

Every spring and fall the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (Program) implements systematic aerial flights and ground searches to document the presence of whooping cranes within the Associated Habitat Area (AHR) for the Program. This monitoring typically occurs from 6 March – 29 April in the spring and 9 October – 15 November in the fall; however, the monitoring seasons have been initiated early or extended when whooping cranes are known to be within the AHR outside of these ranges of dates.
Between 9 October and 22 November, 2017, a total of 23 whooping cranes were detected by the Program’s monitoring efforts. These birds accumulated a total of 198 whooping crane use days, which surpassed the previous high of 121 that was observed in 2002.

Spring 2018 was a remarkable monitoring season for the Program. Between 6 March and 29 April, 2018, a total of 118 whooping cranes were detected by the Program’s monitoring efforts which surpassed the previous high of 65 observed in 2017. These birds accumulated a total of 492 whooping crane use days which surpassed the previous high of 194 that was observed in 2017.

Whooping crane use of the Associated Habitat Reach during the spring and fall monitoring seasons, 2001-2018

Since 2001, the proportion of the whooping crane population observed within the AHR has increased significantly during the spring and has remained fairly steady during the fall.

Map showing whooping crane observation locations

During the fall 2017 and spring 2018 monitoring seasons many of the whooping cranes observed during systematic surveys were located on Program or other conservation organization owned lands.