John Grant research

After completing his PhD at Australian National University John Grant moved to the Atherton Tablelands in northern Queensland to teach ecology. He soon became engrossed in studies on Australian cranes, especially the Australian Sarus Crane Antigone antigone gillae, studying recruitment, feeding, and the presence of hybrid cranes on the Tablelands. John has undertaken pioneering breeding surveys in the Gulf Plains, and developed techniques for aerial surveys that identify Brolgas and Sarus Cranes from ultralite flights. John is a member of the Crane Specialist Group.

Gulf Plains

Breeding season

Cranes in the Gulf Plains breed in the early Wet season, when floodplains fill with water and ground conditions for access are difficult (at best).

Sarus pair on nesting wetland, Gulf Plains (John Grant)

Sarus nest wetland

John began surveys by vehicle in 1996, continuing intermittently unitl 2003. He then joined with colleague (and pilot) Rob Heinsohn to trial aerial surveys by ultralite in the Wet seasons of 2004 and 2005. They found that although aerial surveys allowed far greater coverage in flooded terrain, and Brolgas and Sarus Cranes could be identified from the air, this was only effective in more open areas. Ground surveys before and after the flights showed that Sarus Cranes in particular, often choose to nest in small woodland swamps, where the birds were not visible from the air.

Post-breeding season

Surveys were therefore more feasible in the immediate post-breeding period when flood waters have started to recede, but crane pairs are still on their nesting territories before the young can fly. Surveys at this time also have the advantage that young cranes have grown enough to be seen above tall savannah grass vegetation. With trips in 2006, 2008, 2012 and 2013, John developed a roadside search regime, surveying from the car rooftop. He was also able to distinguish the preferred habitats where Sarus seemed more likely to nest (read John's article about his Gulf survey methods and results, here on Ozcranes»).

From 2016, KS Gopi Sundar worked with John and others to scale up from one-person surveys to a major team effort covering multiple catchments, findings from the earlier years of John's Gulf work established the basis for the new Gulf Plains breeding study» from 2017.

Atherton Tablelands

John published the first formal scientific paper on Australian Sarus breeding success in 2005». He studied recruitment during the dry season on the Atherton Tablelands, counting the number of young that survived to fly with their parents to the wintering grounds. Recruitment rate varied from year to year, the mean 1997-2002 was 6.5%. This study, and John's concurrent study of Sarus Crane feeding ecology, have now covered more than 20 years».

Sarus display

Male Sarus defending young and mate, maize stubble field, Atherton Tablelands (John Grant)

John has also begun seasonal aerial surveys of cranes on the Atherton Tablelands using photographic techniques from an ultralite.

Sarus on ploughed field

↑ Counting Sarus Cranes from ultralite, early morning, Atherton Tablelands (John Grant)

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Scambler EC, Grant JDA and Holmes, NG. 2020. First observations of Australian Sarus Crane Antigone antigone gillae pairs attending three young and the incidence of three-egg clutches in the Brolga A. rubicunda. Australian Field Ornithology 37: 105-111.

KS. Gopi Sundar, John DA. Grant, Inka Veltheim, Swati Kittur, Kate Brandis, Michael A. McCarthy and Elinor C. Scambler. 2019. ‘Sympatric cranes in northern Australia: abundance, breeding success, habitat preference and diet’. Emu 119: 79-89.

Grant, JDA, (2005). Recruitment rate of Sarus Cranes Grus antigone in northern Queensland. Emu 105, 311-5

Grant JDA and R.G. Heinsohn (2004). Conservation status of Sarus Cranes in Australia's Gulf Country. Poster presented at WWF Forum on Gulf Birds and Wetlands, Karumba, Queensland, May 2004.

Zachar, S., Grant, J., Winter, J, and McCaffrey, M. (2017). Use of reforested rainforest by arboreal marsupials on the Atherton Tablelands, North-Eastern Australia – a preliminary assessment. North Queensland Naturalist, Vol. 47: 21-27

Grant JDA, Litchfield NM. (2003). Habitat use, home range and diet of male Victoria's Riflebird Ptiloris victoriae. Emu 103: 121-126.

Grant JDA (1991). Prey Location by two Australian Long-Eared Bats, Nyctophilus gouldi and N. geoffroyi. Australian Journal of Zoology 39, 45-56.

Grant, J.D. and W F Laurance. (1991). Court size and maintenance in the Tooth-billed Catbird. Sunbird 21: 90-92.

Grant, JDA. (1988). Food passage time in Nyctophilus gouldi (Microchiroptera: Vespertilionidae). Journal of Mammalogy 69,pp. 653-655.

Articles and links

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