Greetings all!

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: tom_stehn@fws.gov. Other information, including archived copies of these reports, can be found at the Texas Whooping Crane web site at http://www.ccbirding.com/

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October 31, 2002

An aerial census of the Aransas NWR and surrounding areas made October 31st, 2002 estimated the number of whooping cranes present at 19 adults + 1 chick = 20.

Recap of cranes observed: (20)

Refuge 4+1
Lamar 0
San Jose 2
Matagorda 9
Welder Flats 4
Indianola  0
Total 20

Remarks:  Census conditions were fair all morning, with strong northeast winds and mostly cloudy skies.  Total flight time equaled 3.8 hours, with all of the primary crane areas covered.  Eighteen cranes have arrived since the last flight on October 24th when two cranes were first confirmed present.  Present on today's flight were one family group, one known nesting pair (with banded crane r-r), and 15 unknown.

Status of Migration:

Arrivals at Aransas are about one week slower than average.  Whooping cranes started migrating through the central U.S. about October 12th.  The last sighting in Saskatchewan in Canada was made October 23rd.  At present, the cranes have left Canada, but are scattered throughout the Central Flyway, with sightings reported October 25th ranging from North Dakota to Oklahoma.  Numerous cranes are expected to arrive at Aransas in the next two weeks.

Habitat:  Tides have been extremely high, with water high up on the emergent vegetation in the salt marsh.  Summer and fall rains have produced excellent conditions for the returning cranes.  Floods on the Guadalupe River have produced high freshwater inflows, creating excellent conditions for blue crabs.   Numerous large blue crabs are in the marshes, along with
fruiting wolfberry plants.  Recent rains have helped replenish refuge dugouts and freshwater wetlands, particularly noticeable on Matagaorda Island uplands.  Marsh salinities in mid-October were 10 parts per thousand, with the surrounding bays between 6 and 8 ppt.

Additional note:  On Nov. 1st, eight whoopers were confirmed by the Platte River in Nebraska.  This is about as large as groups get in migration, with a few rare exceptions.   

- Tom Stehn

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Patty Waits Beasley
Corpus Christi, TX
email: patty@ccbirding.com
web:  http://www.ccbirding.com/