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An aerial census of the Aransas NWR and surrounding areas made 06 December,
2000 estimated 167 adults and 8 young present at Aransas for a total of
175.

Recap of cranes observed: (172)*

  Refuge   Lamar   San Jose    Matagorda    Welder  Other          Total
    68+6       7+0        25+0           33+0           30+1    2+0
165+7=172*

* Possibly one family group overlooked on Matagorda Island.

Remarks:   Overcast skies most of the day and light drizzle for part of the
morning made finding cranes more difficult.  I estimated that two more
cranes had arrived to bring the peak winter population to 168 + 9 = 177.

Only eight family groups were located on today's flight.  One family group
may have been overlooked on Matagorda Island.  The Spalding Lake family on
San Jose with banded female R-YbY (46/99), after not being identified for
two consecutive flights,  was located on the refuge's Willow Creek.

Two instances of mortality were documented on the flight.  YbY-RwR (1987
female) was located as a single north of Holiday Beach without her mate
R-GwG (1988 male).  The male had last been seen on November 22.  Another
instance of possible mortality was the arrival of YbY-Y (1987 male) with an
unbanded crane.  It formerly was mated with o-W (1986 female) that last
winter had appeared as hs-W.  Although possible that both the aluminum band
and color band had fallen off since last winter, mortality of the female
from pair 31/00 subsequent to nesting is more probable.  This pair was not
found during the June 2000 production surveys.  Today's flight was the
first time that a band was seen identifying YbY-Y.  It appeared as nil-Y
(very faded).

I finally was able to find the Mustang Lake pair (NY-1) north of the refuge
on private lands on a grassy pipeline right of way west of Hopper's
Landing.  Last week, 10+1 banded cranes known present were not located.
All these cranes were accounted for on today's flight. I have not seen any
bands to indicate that the Vinson Slough pair (01/00) with female ByB-ByB
has arrived, although an unbanded pair is on its territory.  I have not
been able to see the feet on the female to see if a low silver band may
still be present.

Cranes in unusual places included 15 cranes in Willow Creek north of St.
Charles Bay,  7 cranes south and 1 crane north of Holiday Beach.  One crane
pair located off their winter territory was the Dunham Point pair that was
located in St. Charles Bay foraging for clams just south of Egg Point.

Twenty one of the 25 cranes located at San Jose were on upland islands
within the salt marsh or on bare sand dry tidal flats.  This predominant
use of uplands did not occur in other parts of the crane range.  However,
54 of the 172 cranes located were on uplands, a very unusually high
percentage, especially without prescribed burns acting as attractants.





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