April 2016 Crane Census, Namibia Crane News No 55 (May 2016)

by Ann & Mike Scott

Our wet-season crane census at Etosha National Park took place from 4-8 April 2016, with an encouraging final count of 16 adults/subadults plus two chicks. This year the team consisted of Holger Kolberg, Gabriel Shatumbu and Sethi Guim of the Ministry of Environ- ment & Tourism; Hanjo Böhme and his friend, Mathias Patzelt from Germany; and Mike and Ann Scott.

As we know by now, our wet season counts are usually lower than those during the dry season, once the birds return to the Park (last year’s maximum in the dry season was 23 birds). For this reason, we did not carry out a dedicated aerial survey at this stage but will continue to count opportunistically throughout the year. Conditions were relatively dry, although there has been some rain.

We are pleased to report that we have finally managed to fit our satellite tracker to a Blue Crane, namely to a large chick on 5 April 2016 at Charitsaub. This is a milestone event in the life of the Namibia Crane Working Group – hats off to our very capable team! The device is a solar leg-mount, manufactured by North Star and associates. The bird is ringed with a green tag (NCM); the second chick at Halali Seepage was also ringed (NCN).

The tagged crane has transmitted regularly every four days. Good quality locations are being received, and the solar charging appears to be working. The GPS locations are kindly being downloaded and archived by Dr John Mendelsohn.

At the time of writing the bird was still at Charitsaub, and is expected to fledge soon. Hopefully the tracking device will be able to show us which areas the cranes are using when they leave the Park in winter.

The group, including the chick with the satellite tag, was observed at Charitsaub by Gabriel Shatumbu on 18 and 19/4/16, who reports that the tag was in place as deployed.

The pair at Salvadora again laid a second clutch that failed. In 2015 this pair and the pair at Halali Seepage both laid a second clutch that was not successful. This is the first time that second clutches have been recorded for Blue Cranes in Namibia.

Ringed cranes

The following ringed birds have bred this year:
– Charitsaub (1 chick NCM): NHF (2006) & NHH (2007)
– Halali Seepage (1 chick NCN): NBN (2008) & NHD (2006) – Salvadora (2 clutches, 0 chick): NHM (2009) & unringed

Other ringed birds that have been reported (November 2015-April 2016, see crane observations below):

– NBZ (Chudop area; 2008) – NBW (Fischer’s Pan; 2008) – NCJ (Various sites; 2014)
– NCK (Various sites; 2014)

One of our most dedicated and enthusiastic team members, Wilferd Versfeld, has taken a sideways step by retiring from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. He will be involved with managing his game farming and tourism enterprise on the borders of Etosha. We know he will also continue to be involved
in crane conservation, and wish him and his wife Elsie and their family a happy and fulfilling next chapter of their lives. Thank you, Wilferd, for your invaluable contributions towards carrying out the Namibia Crane Action Plan, and all the many hours spent observing and tracking down our cranes.