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 17, 2000 revealed the presence of a record 185 whooping
cranes.

     Recap of cranes observed: (175)

      Refuge   Lamar   San Jose    Matagorda    Welder  Other      Total
       88+9      0a    18+2(inc.)     25+1       29+2     1b  161+14=175

     a The Big Tree family was overlooked despite extended search.

     b A single whooping crane was reported along Highway 774 south of
       Austwell in a farm field.

     Remarks:  Visibility was good throughout the day.  A total of 175
     whooping cranes were located, including 14 chicks.

     Whooping cranes are continuing to leave their Matagorda and San
     Jose territories to utilize refuge prescribed burns.  A total of 32
     whoopers were seen on burns, including 22 cranes on Unit 41E and 10
     on Unit 37.  Thirteen cranes were found in open bays.  No cranes
     were at freshwater.

     The 31 whooping cranes at Welder Flats ties a record high.  An
     incomplete census was done on San Jose.  Based on distribution,
     cranes believed overlooked included 6 on San Jose and 2+1 on the
     refuge.  Thus, cranes observed totalled 174, with 1 reliably
     reported in farm fields, and 9 overlooked, for a total of a minimum
     flock of 184 whoopers estimated present at Aransas.  Two banded
     families have not been observed since December 14.  If these two
     families return to their territories with no mortality, then the
     peak population size would equal 190.  The R-YbY pair that had not
     been located since December 14 was back on their San Jose
     territory.  They had probably been in large refuge groups using
     Burn 41E for the past two months.

     Fourteen family groups were sighted on today's flight, with the Big
     Tree family overlooked despite an extended search.  An unexpected
     find was a family group on the south end of the crane range on San
     Jose.  The identification of this family is unknown since they have
     apparently been staying in large groups on refuge Burn 41E.  They
     possibly could be an unbanded pair that last winter was
     consistently found north of Allyn's Bight on San Jose.

     For the third time this winter, two cranes were seen on Dewberry
     Island close to Port O'Connor. A grouping of 1+1 had moved from the
     refuge over to San Jose, but their territorial identity is unknown.

- Tom Stehn

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Good birding!
Patty Beasley
Corpus Christi, Texas