Subject: Aransas migration update - April 10
From: Tom_Stehn@fws.gov
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 11:22:58 -0500

An aerial census of the Aransas NWR and surrounding areas made 10 April,
2002 estimated the number of whooping cranes present at 110 adults + 8
chicks  = 118.  The size of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane
population in spring, 2002 is estimated at 174, with a maximum of 56 cranes
having started the migration.  An estimated 31 cranes have migrated since
the last flight on April 4.

Recap of cranes observed: (118)

 Refuge   Lamar   San Jose   Matagorda   Welder Flats   Indianola
Total
 35+4       2+0      16+0         44+3              13+1              0
110 +  8 = 118

Census conditions were a high overcast throughout the day which made it
somewhat difficult to find all the cranes.  All areas were covered except
Copano Bay.  Light northeast and east winds were present that probably
prevented any cranes from migrating.

Migration Status:  It is estimated that 31 cranes, including 4 family
groups, have started the migration since the last flight on April 4.
Extremely strong southeast winds blew April 6 which some of the cranes
presumably used to initiate migration.   The cranes were grouped up more
than usual indicating impending migration.  With good migration weather
forecast for the next 3-5 days, a majority of the remaining cranes are
expected to migrate in the coming week.  The peak migration period is
normally just before tax time.  Are the cranes flying to Canada to avoid
the IRS?
Wally Jobman of USFWS in Nebraska reports that a  single whooping crane
confirmed March 20 on the Platte River in Nebraska is still there, along
with a pair on the Loup River in Nebraska.

Notes:  On San Jose Island, the crane with an injured left wing was located
in a duo about two miles away from where it was seen last week.  This
change in distance makes me believe the injured crane has some flight
ability.
The Indianola and Dewberry pairs were not located and believed to have
migrated.  The pair of cranes in front of the refuge observation tower at
Mustang Lake were still present, allowing visitors to still see whoopers.
A whooping crane tour boat was also on the GIWW during the census flight.
A single bird was located on the North Sundown Bay territory where a family
group had been present all winter.  The bird acted extremely nervous as the
plane approached.  Although I could not see juvenal plumage, I still wonder
if maybe the adults had left their chick behind.  This time of year, it is
sometimes difficult to differentiate adults from juveniles.

A break in a natural gas pipeline in Aransas Bay near Rockport was sighted
after take-off at 12:17 PM and called in to the Coast Guard.  A light sheen
of product that covered a narrow strip of water about -mile long emanated
from the violently bubbling water.  Although gas was still bubbling up from
the break at 3 PM, the Texas General Land Office assured me that the line
to a local platform owned by Coastal Production had been shut down and the
problem resolved.

Habitat:  Tides that have risen and covered oyster reefs in the bays and
all the mud flats on San Jose with water are above average.   Seven cranes
were observed flying to fresh water to drink.  Several cranes were observed
holding small crabs.  The drought continues in South Texas despite some
storms that brought rain to north Texas and Louisiana.