Greetings all,

The following report is forwarded with permission from Tom Stehn, USFWS biologist and National Whooping Crane Coordinator.

Where applicable, CWS stands for Canadian Wildlife Service; USFWS is US Fish and Wildlife Service. Crane monitoring involves cooperative efforts and support by both countries.

Anyone wanting to contact Tom about the report or the whooping crane projects can reach him via email at: tom_stehn@fws.gov. Other information, including archived copies of these reports, can be found at the Texas Whooping Crane home pages at http://www.electrotex.com/aoc/. (Please link to the Texas Whooping Crane pages through the AOC main home page, as the URLs for the special site pages may change over time as updates and reviews occur.)

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An aerial census of the Aransas NWR and surrounding areas made
February 03, 2000 revealed the presence of somewhere between a
record 185 and 191 whooping cranes.

     Recap of cranes observed: (176)

     Refuge   Lamar   San Jose    Matagorda    Welder  Other      Total

     102+10a   2+1      20+0        23+1        15+2          62+14=176


     a The total of 112 surpasses by nine the all-time high.


     Remarks:  Visibility was excellent, with high clouds present only
     over Welder Flats.  A total of 176 whooping cranes were located,
     including 14 chicks.   The number of cranes at Welder Flats on the
     previous two flights had been 24+2=26.  Today, only 15+2=17 cranes
     were located at Welder.  The 9 cranes at Welder could have moved to
     the refuge, although it seems likely the subadults had moved inland
     and were not counted on the census.  In addition, two crane were
     recently reported near McFaddin, Texas (northwest of Tivoli). one
     crane just south of Austwell, and 1 crane in west Texas south of
     Lubbock.  The only crane that can be added to the census total with
     very high certainty is the crane in west Texas, but todays' census
     indicated possibly as many as 189 in the population.

     Highlights of the census were the record 112 on the refuge,
     surpassing by nine last week's record high of 103.  The N.
     Cottonwood family from Matagorda Island had left their territory
     and was identified on the refuge.  The South Matagorda family
     continued to stay on the refuge.  A banded crane identified for the
     first time this winter was nil-low silver (Twin Lakes).  I
     apparently made a mistake concluding last week that Pair 35/99 with
     banded female YbY-GwG (1987) had lost their chick.  The
     color-banded pair I believed I actually saw was YbY-y/g (Boat Ramp
     New).  The yellow band is not visible.  The green band has a worn
     top which appears whitish and was misread as GwG.  Thus, NO
     mortality has been known to occur this winter.  However, it is
     puzzling that two families containing banded birds GwG-YbY and
     YbY-GwG have not been seen since December 13.  If they are in
     amongst the large groups on the refuge burns, it is likely they
     have lost their chicks since I have concentrated on identifying as
     many families as possible on census flights.  Also, pair R-YbY has
     apparently left their San Jose territory and has not been located
     since December 14.  Pairs identified on todays flight that had
     returned to their territory were G-GwG (Long Reef) and the unbanded
     Barge Canal pair at Welder Flats.  For the first time this winter,
     two cranes were seen on Dewberry Island close to Port O'Connor.

     Cranes are continuing to leave their Matagorda and San Jose
     territories to utilize refuge prescribed burns.  An unbelievably
     large group of cranes (31+2=33) were located on the North Pipeline
     Flats territory adjacent to Burn Unit 41E.  At one point, one of
     the  North Pipeline Flats territorial adults tried to chase a
     subgroup of 11 birds.  A grouping of 1+1 was possibly discerned in
     the larger group which would be the widowed female with chick
     reported in the fall migration that has been wintering on the
     refuge.

     On the flight, 45 cranes were found on prescribed burns, 31 in open
     water (bays or lakes).  No cranes were found at freshwater since
     soaking rains had fallen the previous two days.  Two separate
     cranes were observed eating large dead fish, and one crane was
     holding what looked like an an eel.

- Tom Stehn

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Good birding!
Patty Beasley
Corpus Christi, Texas