Quick road counts provide a glimpse into crane populations in wetlands around Kabale, Uganda

What makes the landscapes around Kabale, a town in southwestern Uganda, unique is the ease with which Grey Crowned Cranes can be seen foraging, flying and flocking as one drives along gravel roads that radiate from towns and village trading centres. During a recent trip to the area, road trips to villages undertaken to meet community groups involved in integrated wetland conservation and livelihood projects presented opportunities to conduct rapid crane counts. The roads traverse papyrus-covered wetlands, crop fields, pastures, steep hillslopes, eucalyptus plantations and densely populated human settlements. It is in these highly transformed landscapes that cranes were sighted and counted on the 7th and 8th of May. On the first day, 144 cranes were counted, comprising 97 individuals (sighted in flocks), 22 pairs, two juveniles and one chick. They were observed during a trip from Kabale to Lake Bunyonyi. On the second day, 126 cranes were counted during a trip from Kabale to Kisoro, comprising 12 pairs (one had a juvenile) and 101 individuals observed in flocks. Records of crane sightings taken during the two road trips provide a fascinating glimpse into crane populations that depend on wetlands around Kabale, one of the four focal areas targeted for conservation action in Uganda. Potential breeding sites and degraded wetland patches that could be restored through community-based actions were identified. Crane and wetland conservation activities around Kabale are being implemented as part of a collaborative initiative between the International Crane Foundation/Endangered Wildlife Trust Partnership and Nature Uganda.

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Flock of cranes foraging on an overgrazed plot

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The pair observed with a chick that was a few days old

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A view of Lake Bunyonyi showing the part of a wetland used by cranes for breeding

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Cranes foraging in a tea plantation are not easy spot!

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