STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – The Greater Sandhill crane habits will be shown in full when the Yampa Valley’s first live crane camera is set up later this year.
The Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, funded with $ 4,000 in grants from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, will install the camera on a private farm in Hayden this spring. It will stream the nest live on the group’s website and allow anyone with internet access to watch the cranes switch places, spin eggs, and hatch their chicks with their partner. The employees also edit and publish highlights from the nest.
“It’s a great way to learn what cranes are doing in the nest,” said Erin Gelling, program director for the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition. “One of the main reasons we wanted to do this is to let people know about cranes and about the behavior of the animals themselves.”
Nancy Merrill, president and co-founder of the coalition, said bird cameras are incredibly popular. And while the group intends the project to provide entertainment, Merrill hopes to use it as an educational opportunity as well.
“The hope is that it will help people better adjust to the nature that is happening here in Routt County,” Merrill said. “It is a way of making people aware not only of cranes, but of the entire animal world in the Yampa Valley.”
In addition to the grants, Zirkel Wireless donated internet equipment to the project that was launched for a year.
“We all hope this makes people more sensitive to the environment around us,” added Merrill. “We try to maximize the chances of success as much as possible.”
Cranes are among the oldest species of birds alive, and scientists want to ensure their survival, Merrill added. Therefore, the group will be extra careful to install the camera at a reasonable distance and not to make too much noise around the nest. The camera will be attached to a pole near the nest with the wires farther away from the nest, Merrill said.
“Once the cranes start to nest, we want to limit our exposure to them as much as possible,” said Gelling. “Otherwise we could risk scaring them off nesting in the area.”
The coalition will broadcast the camera from their Facebook page, which is also invited to the public to ask questions about what they see.
“On a biological level, you won’t know what they’re doing unless you sit down and stare at a crane all day,” said Gelling. “This is a way for people to harmonize with nature and the natural world around them.”
The Community Foundation, which gives grants to local nonprofits for a variety of purposes, said it chose this particular cause because it was important to learn about the wildlife around Steamboat Springs.
“The Community Foundation believes that our environment is an important part of our community, both economically and for the health and safety of our valley,” said Helen Beall, Community Impact Manager for the Foundation. “It will be adorable.”
In addition to installing a crane camera, the coalition is now offering scholarships for high school graduates in the districts of Routt and Moffat. Students can apply by submitting an original piece, visual art, or performing art inspired by the Rocky Mountain population of Greater Sandhill cranes. Students can apply on the coalition website.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.