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 November 5, 2003 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes present at 53 adults + 5 young = 58 total.
Recap of cranes observed: (58)
adults + young
Refuge 27 + 3
San Jose 2 + 0
Matagorda 18 + 1
Welder Flats 6 + 1
Total 53 + 5 = 58
Remarks: Partly cloudy skies and moderate southeast winds made for good census conditions. All of the crane area was covered in 6.1 hours of flight time.
The presence of 58 whooping cranes indicated that only 9 cranes have arrived since the last flight on October 29th. Two reports totaling 10 cranes came from north Texas on October 31. Four adults and 1 young were at Lake Arrowhead southeast of Wichita Falls, and 5 adults were at Lake Weatherford west of Ft. Worth. These cranes may have accounted for the increase in numbers at Aransas on today's flight.
The unbanded pair of cranes on Dewberry Island has arrived, bringing a chick to Aransas for the first time. The identity of this pair in Canada is not known, but they have been occupying a winter territory since 1996-97 and may have been a subadult duo on Dewberry Island as early as fall,1994. Male crane r-r (1988) has arrived with its unbanded mate and was several territories north of their own marsh. This male has never brought a chick to Aransas and has only hatched a single chick in 7 nesting attempts. These cases demonstrate how long it takes some pairs to be productive. The Lobstick pair with 2 chicks was also north of their usual territory. The
Airport family on Matagorda was across the island close to Ayres Bay. Cranes often wander this time of year when neighboring territories are vacant.
Status of migration:
No low pressure system has reached the Texas coast since October 26th, with migration weather unfavorable across Texas. Saskatchewan had a strong cold front that brought snow on October 29th , with 2 sightings recorded that day in Canada. This storm presumably pushed most of the remaining cranes south into the U.S. The northern Great Plains experienced cold weather and snow in the Dakotas, with cranes presumably migrating across North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma during the past week. Texas has had some of the warmest weather in the nation. A weak low pressure system has moved south from Oklahoma into central Texas and is forecast to reach the Texas coast on November 7th. I estimate that cranes are stacked up behind this front and expect numerous birds to complete the migration in the coming week. Five whooping cranes were reported in flight on November 5th near Amarillo, Texas.
Habitat: Tides are back at high levels, measured at 3.1 mlt on November 3rd . They have risen about 6 inches since the last flight.
- Tom Stehn
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Patty Waits Beasley
Corpus Christi, TX