The following report is forwarded with permission from Tom Stehn, USFWS biologist and US 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, plus many volunteers and non-profit organizations along the way.
Anyone wanting to contact Tom about the report or the whooping crane projects can reach him via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Other information, including archived copies of these reports, can be found at the Texas Whooping Crane web site on its new server at http://tiercel.cbi.tamucc.edu/nature/falcon/twc/index.html.
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An aerial census of the Aransas NWR and surrounding areas made 21 November,
2001 estimated the number of whooping cranes present at 147 adults + 13
young = 160.
Recap of cranes observed: (160)
San Jose 25+1
Welder Flats 20+1
Remarks: Overcast skies with occasional light showers were present
throughout the day making it more difficult to find cranes. However, a
complete census effort was made with 7.5 hours of flight time.
Twenty-seven cranes that completed the migration since the previous flight
on November 15 were aided by a cold front that reached the Texas Coast by
sunset on November 19th, bringing favorable migration conditions November
20-21. Duck numbers increased significantly, primarily redhead and lesser
scaup. Cranes that arrived included 3 new family groups on Matagorda
Island, all with unknown summer territories. Two were located by the
airstrip on the south end of Matagorda, and one north of Power Lake. The
St. Charles Bay (27/01, K20) and S. Matagorda Island (22/01, S13) pairs
have not yet arrived and are expected to bring chicks. The St. Charles Bay
family was still in Saskatchewan reported on November 19. A family group
with only one adult with a chick was sighted on Quivira NWR in Kansas on
November 20. If these two families make it to Aransas, 15 chicks would be
present, indicating excellent survival from the 14 chicks located in
mid-August in Wood Buffalo. Other cranes sighted in migration and not
yet present at Aransas were a pair in Saskatchewan on November 17, and a
pair on the North Loup River, Nebraska and a single at Quivira NWR, Kansas
on November 18. These ten cranes known to be in migration added to the
160 at Aransas brings the population to a minimum figure of 155 + 15 = 170.
Pairs still not present at Aransas include the Jay Bird Point, Pat's Bay,
Allyn's Bight, behind Lakeside, and the R-Y pair north of Power Lake.
Most all cranes usually arrive by mid-December with a few remaining
stragglers possible in late December.
Unusual Locations: The Mustang Lake pair was north of the Pump Canal, about
5 miles south of their territory. The North Pump Canal pair had left their
territory and were located on the southern end of the crane range on San
Jose. The Boat Ramp pair had moved into the vacant Mustang Lake territory.
One family group that last week had been near Dunham Bay had moved over to
Egg Point. The Ayres Island family had moved across the GIWW by the Pump
Canal. A single crane was present in the marsh south of Holiday Beach, the
first sighting of the winter by Holiday Beach. Four cranes were northeast
of Fulghum's Fish Camp, including a pair on Dewberry Island. A pair on
South Panther Point was seen chasing 5 subadults and the Middle Matagorda
Island pair, evidence of a newly established territory by Panther Point.
Habitat: Tides were not quite as high as last week, measured at 2.6 mlt
on November 19. However, heavy rains on the refuge that totaled 5.08
inches on November 15th flooded some upland pastures and raised water
levels in coastal marshes, particularly notable at Welder Flats. Rains
were widespread and brought flooding to the Texas Hill Country with over 8
inches received in Austin. Flooding is occurring on the Guadalupe River
that provides important inflows to whooping crane critical habitat. Marsh
and bay salinities in the crane area were measured at 15 and 19 ppt
respectively on November 19 but should begin to decrease.
On today's flight, most cranes were in habitat supporting blue crabs. Two
cranes on the flight were observed holding blue crabs in their beaks,
indicating the cranes are at present foraging primarily on crabs. No
cranes were at fresh water sources, on uplands or prescribed burns. A crab
count done November 19 indicated crabs were available with 3-inch crabs the
most abundant size present. Wolfberry fruits were uncommon, a dramatic
drop from the end of October.
Families: The 13 families present include:
known pairs in Wood Buffalo
N. Sundown Bay (34/01, K14)
Middle Pond (07/01, A6)
S. Sundown Bay (50/01,S8) (arrived as 1+1, may have re-paired already)
Cottonwood Bayou (28/01, K3) (in same area third consecutive week)
N. Cottonwood (33/01, K23)
Ayres Island (37/01, K10)
unknown pairs in Wood Buffalo
Fenceline on San Jose (unknown)
Grass Island (3-Island) (unknown)
E. Welder (36/01, K8) or Unknown family at Welder (not sure which pair observed)
Pump Canal (unknown)
Bray's Cove (unknown)
Matagorda Airstrip (unknown)
North Power lake (unknown)
- Tom Stehn
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Special thanks to Texas A&M University's Conrad Blucher Institute server and Dr. Robert Benson for sponsoring the Texas Whooping Crane web site's new home!
Patty Waits Beasley
Corpus Christi, Texas
Web site: http://tiercel.cbi.tamucc.edu/nature/falcon/twc/index.html