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 at http://www.ccbirding.com/
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An aerial census on March 19, 2003 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes present at
169 adults + 15 young = 184 total. This is one less than the estimated peak winter population of 185.
Recap of cranes observed: (184)
adults + young
Refuge 45 + 5
Lamar 6 + 0
San Jose 40 + 2
Matagorda 58 + 7
Welder Flats 20 + 1
Total 169 + 15 = 184
Remarks and Conclusions: Clear skies throughout the day provided excellent census conditions. All areas were covered in 8.1 hours of flight time.
All 184 cranes estimated present were located. Thus, it is believed that none of the whooping cranes have started the spring migration, and mortality during the 2002-03 equaled only one juvenile. Two additional cranes located on San Jose Island were believed to be a duplicate sighting. The 65 cranes present on Matagorda Island breaks the all-time high by three birds.
Specifics / Interesting Locations:
The N. Allyn's Bight pair had apparently returned to their territory after being gone for 2 consecutive weeks. The S. Dunham Point pair were not present on their territory for the second week in a row, but with all cranes located on the flight, were presumably in a different part of the wintering area. Two subadult cranes continued their use south of Holiday Beach on the Lamar Peninsula. A subadult with an injured wing was still present in a duo by the southern Matagorda Island airstrip. The chick that had separated from its parents on Matagorda continued to be closely associated with a subadult. A family group was found just northeast of Fulghum's Fish Camp at Welder Flats, slightly outside its normal territory.
On today's flight, no whooping cranes were in open bay habitat, on prescribed burns, at fresh water sources, or on uplands.
- Tom Stehn
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Patty Waits Beasley
Corpus Christi, TX