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 29, 2000 provided evidence that a record 188 whooping
cranes are present.

     Recap of cranes observed: (159)

      Refuge   Lamar   San Jose    Matagorda    Welder  Other      Total
       68+10     4 +1     22+1      23+2(inc)     26+2         43+16=159

     Remarks:  Overcast skies, smoke from a prescribed burn on a portion
     of Matagorda Island, and haze that formed on the windshield
     throughout the day made viewing difficult.  Some cranes were
     overlooked, and an incomplete census was done on Matagorda Island.
     Crane movements on the refuge blocked attempts to get an accurate
     count.  A total of 159 whooping cranes were located, including 16
     chicks.

     The highlight of the flight was the presence of the Central
     Matagorda family with female YbY-GwG back on their territory.  They
     had not been found since December 14 and are believed to have left
     the census area for an extended period.  With strong evidence of
     185 cranes present last flight, the addition of the Central
     Matagorda family indicates a record 161 + 17 = 188 whooping cranes
     in the flock.  Banded family GwG- YbY is still missing.

     Whooping cranes are continuing to leave their Matagorda territories
     to utilize refuge prescribed burns, including the South Matagorda
     and North Cottonwood families.  A total of 32 whoopers were seen on
     burns, including 15 cranes on Unit 41E and 8 on Unit 37.  Five were
     on a recent burn at welder Flats.  Nineteen cranes were found in
     open water (bays or lakes).  Nine cranes were at freshwater.

     For the fourth time this winter, two cranes were seen near 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.  It is possible they are the missing GwG-YbY family on San
     Jose with the loss of the banded mate, but they are NOT on the
     proper territory if that is the case.  Thus, i continue to believe
     the 1+1 are the single adult and chick reported in the fall
     migration.  The Big Tree family, although not identified with
     bands, was found north of Holiday Beach.  Prior to migration, this
     family has a history of movements such as this to Copano Bay.  No
     band(s) were found on two pairs in the territory of W-nil (formerly
     W-YbY, 1987).  It is not known if mortality has occurred or the
     band simply fallen off.  The latter is possible since a pair has
     been found on the territory nearly every week this winter.

     ____________________________

     An aerial census of the Aransas NWR and surrounding areas made
     March 9, 2000 provided evidence that the population is a record 188
     whooping cranes.

     Recap of cranes observed: (171)

      Refuge   Lamar   San Jose    Matagorda    Welder  Other      Total
      75+10     2+1     26+1        27+3(inc)    22+2    2(a)  53+17=171

         (a) - Two birds confirmed on the Platte River March 2-8.

     Remarks:  Extensive crane movements in the high density of cranes
     on the refuge made an accurate census very difficult to accomplish.
     Low clouds in the morning limited visibility. Smoke from two
     prescribed burns on Matagorda resulted in an incomplete census on
     Matagorda and restricted visibility on Welder.  However, it is
     believed that crane movements are the overwhelming reason that
     census totals came out below the estimated population of 188.

     Seventeen families were found on the census.  However, it is
     believed that family GwG-YbY is still not present, missing since
     mid-December.  Thus, one of the families observed was probably
     counted twice.  A single adult and chick were in a dense area of
     cranes on the refuge just south of the pipeline, having last week
     been on San Jose.  An unbanded family  was observed on San Jose for
     the second time this winter.  The South Matagorda Island family,
     previously using refuge burns, returned to their Matagorda
     territory.  The Big Tree family was on Newcomb Point.  One crane
     was on Willow Creek, the first time this winter cranes were present
     on this former territory.  For the fifth time this winter, two
     cranes were seen near Dewberry Island close to Port O'Connor.

     On today's flight, 17 cranes were on prescribed burns, including
     twelve on a recent burn at Welder.  Six were at fresh water, and 20
     in open bays and lakes.  The last refuge prescribed burn of the
     winter was conducted March 10 at the south end of the refuge (Unit
     26S).

- Tom Stehn

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Good birding!
Patty Beasley
Corpus Christi, Texas