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 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas on April 15, 2003 estimated the number of whooping cranes present at 6 adults + 1 young = 7 total. The flight indicated that 114 whooping cranes had started the migration since the previous flight on April 9.
RECAP OF CRANES OBSERVED:
adults + young total
San Jose 0
Matagorda 6 + 1 = 7
Welder Flats 0
Total 6 + 1 = 7
Results and Conclusions: Mostly clear skies provided very good census conditions, although the flight was choppy because of strong southeast winds. All areas were covered in 5.1 hours of flight time. Migration conditions were ideal for the cranes.
Today's flight found 6 subadults + 1 chick = 7 whooping cranes. So far, 177 cranes (96.2% of the flock) have started the migration. Of these, 107 + 7 = 114 headed north between April 10 ? April 15. After a cold front and unfavorable migration conditions April 7-9, the winds turned around from the southeast and strengthened, getting progressively better for migration each day April 10 through April 15. Two cranes were sighted in Central Texas on April 11, indicating they had probably left Aransas on the 10th. Three cranes were sighted leaving the refuge on April 14, by which time most of the cranes had migrated. The period of time with the most whooping cranes flying across Kansas and Nebraska will probably be approximately April 15 -22. The migration appears to be on schedule, with all the adult cranes having started the migration in order to get to the nesting grounds.
The 7 cranes remaining at Aransas were all found on Matagorda Island. Present were 6 subadults and 1 chick that had separated from its parents earlier in the winter. The crane with the drooping left wing has apparently started the migration.
- Tom Stehn
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Patty Waits Beasley
Corpus Christi, TX