MANITOWISH WATERS - On Saturday, Northwoods birders will be waking up at the crack of dawn to look for cranes. A thousand volunteers across the Midwest will be helping out as part of the annual Midwest Crane Count. The population of these large, long-legged birds has been tracked for decades by the International Crane Foundation.
Friday at the North Lakeland Discovery Center in Manitowish Waters, naturalist Annie McDonnell showed volunteers how to participate in the crane survey. She said getting people out in nature is great for volunteers and the cranes.
"We really want to educate people about their habitat, wetlands, wetland ecology and how important this is to our area," said McDonnell. "Citizen science is a wonderful way to contribute their experience to a dataset that increases our knowledge about the place that we live."
McDonnell said the Wisconsin crane population crashed in the early 1930s and has steadily increased since then. Whooping cranes are only in southern Wisconsin but sandhill cranes are present all across the state.
Julie Braid of Lac Du Flambeau will be participating in the survey for the first time.
"I do the usual camping, kayaking, canoeing, backpacking, and this is just another way for me to get involved," said Braid.
She's hoping to see the unusual mating habits of cranes, where they throw sticks and dance.
Go to International Crane Foundation website to find out more on how to participate.