November 6, 2002

An aerial census of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas made November 06, 2002 estimated the number of whooping cranes present at 78 adults + 8 young = 86 total.

Recap of cranes observed:

Refuge 33 + 4
Lamar 2 + 0
San Jose 8 + 2
Matagorda 25 + 2
Welder Flats 10 + 0

Total 78 + 8 = 86

Remarks: Clear skies and light north winds provided perfect census conditions. All of the primary crane areas were covered with 6.3 hours of flight time.

Sixty-six cranes that completed the migration since the previous flight on October 31st were aided by a cold front that brought 8.33 inches of rain to the refuge on November 3-4. Clear skies and north winds following the front on November 5-6 produced ideal migration conditions for the cranes to reach the coast. Three whooping crane sightings totaling 7 birds made November 4 and 5 in the northern half of Texas reported on the Texas birding site on the internet were the first sightings reported in Texas this fall, indicative of a migration of whooping cranes across Texas on those days. The Big Tree pair is believed to have arrived November 6. Numbers of cormorants and waterfowl were also notably higher during today's census flight compared with the previous week.

Status of migration:

Approximately half of the whooping cranes have arrived at Aransas. Other cranes have been reported recently in Nebraska and Oklahoma, including a total of 13 on the Platte River.

Territories:

Known territorial pairs (identified by bands or presence on territory) that have arrived since last week included the Boat Ramp New, Pipeline, South Dunham Point, Big Tree, Long Reef, Cottonwood Bayou A, Central Matagorda, and Panther Point pairs. Numerous additional pairs are presumably present but could not be differentiated from subadult duos. The Lakeside family and Long Reef pair were off their territories becasue of neighbors that have not yet arrived.

Habitat: Tides were still extremely high. Bay and whooping crane census - Nov. 6.ems marsh salinities measured on November 4th were at 0 parts per thousand from the flooding rains received the previous day. Water covered numerous portion of the refuge's East Shore Road adjacent to the crane area. The new State Highway 35 Bypass between Rockport and Aransas Pass was closed due to water on the roadway. The recent rains were added to over 15 inches of rain the refuge received in October. The lower grassland areas in the uplands are holding significant amounts of water. This is much-need rain for refuge habitat that has ended the drought. On today's flight, most cranes were in habitat supporting blue crabs or wolfberry, two predominate foods of the whooping cranes in the fall.

Families: The 8 families present include;

known pairs in Wood Buffalo

Middle Sundown Bay (06/02, A-6)a
Pat's Bay (05/02, A-2)
South M. I. (25/02,S-13)b

a This family was not found in Wood Buffalo in August, and thus was the 18th chick in mid-August.
b bands not seen on pair to clearly identify family. Possible that red color band on male has fallen off since June.

unknown pairs in Wood Buffalo

Mustang Slough South (unknown, could also be Mustang Slough or Rattlesnake)
South Sundown Bay or Behind Lakeside (unknown)
Lakeside
Spalding Point
N. Power Lake (family present second year in a row)


The Boat Ramp New pair (nest 31/02) has arrived without their chick that was seen in mid-August.

- Tom Stehn

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