New camera offers rare glimpse at nesting cranes (with video)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition board member Barry Kaplan said the organization’s efforts to install a camera near where a pair of greater Sandhill cranes normally nests in Northwest Colorado is paying off this spring.

“We’ve got some things on film that we’ve never seen before,” said Kaplan, who has been heavily involved with the cameras as a board member and a member of the coalition’s education committee. “Nobody’s ever done this before. To our knowledge, we are the first to do this kind of a camera and have live streaming.”

He said there are plenty of cameras streaming osprey, hawk and eagle nests, but he said he has not seen any focused on cranes. He said this camera began capturing rarely seen moments almost as soon as the cranes arrived at the site, which is located on private land in the Yampa Valley.

The plan was to livestream what the camera recorded 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing the public the opportunity to log in whenever they wanted to see what was happening at the site in real time.

Kaplan said, unfortunately, the livestream has been inconsistent to this point, and the coalition is working diligently to address the issues and get them fixed without bothering the cranes.

“The camera went live on April 15, but we’re having trouble with it,” Kaplan said. “It ran for a few days beautifully, and then the last two days, we’ve had technical difficulties, and it keeps going down.”

Kaplan said the coalition tested the site for a couple of weeks prior to going live. He said there were a few technical problems but not to this extent.

“We are actually waiting for a part that was supposed to be here on Friday, but it did not arrive,” Kaplan said. “When that part arrives, we’ve determined that we can get to the camera without disturbing the cranes. So we’ll install that, and we’re hoping that that will fix the problem.”

Kaplan said the inconsistency of the livestream capability hasn’t lessened the value of the camera.

“We’re planning to livestream when we can and post video highlights throughout the month,” he said.

Those videos can be found on the coalition’s website, YouTube channel and Facebook page.

In fact nearly everything the cranes have done since arriving in the Yampa Valley can be seen through the lens of the camera, which can be rotated and zoomed in or out for a better image.

So far, the the camera has caught cranes building their nest, laying eggs and parents taking turns incubating the eggs. There also is a video that shows the cranes defending the nest from a hungry raccoon.

“We get to view all these behaviors without having to be out in the field constantly, which is how biology is normally done,” said Erin Birtwistle Gelling, the coalition’s program director. “Normally, you go out and sit there with binoculars and observe things and take notes.”

Gelling, who has a degree in ecology and natural resources and has been studying birds for nearly 14 years, is currently finishing up her master’s degree working with greater sage grouse. She was hired as program director in January.

The camera was paid for with a $4,000 grant from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, Kaplan said

“This camera is great because being able to just understand how often they’re getting up, how often they’re switching places, has been really insightful,” Gelling said.

She also noted the assistance from Zirkel Wireless and Photon Syndicate.

“All of these partners have been invaluable in making this happen,” Gelling added.

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