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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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An aerial census on November 26, 2003 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes present at 160 adults + 23 young = 183 total.

Recap of cranes observed: (181)

adults + young Change from 11/19
Refuge 47 + 8 minus 6
Lamar 4 + 1 minus 1
San Jose 41 + 6 plus 9
Matagorda 48 + 6 plus 2
Welder Flats 18 + 2 plus 5
Total 158 + 23 = 181 plus 9

Remarks: Light southeast winds provided smooth flying, but visibility was limited by dark clouds and occasional drizzle, and humid conditions put a haze on the windshield. Sunshine was present for about half the flight. All of the crane area was covered in 7.8 hours of flight time.

New arrivals from last week (11 cranes) included three family groups and one banded pair. Thus, the estimated population is 11 added to last week's total of 172 for a total of 183. This is one less than the total present in spring, 2003. It is probable that 6-8 cranes were overlooked on today's flight due to poor visibility. These cranes, along with an unknown number of cranes still in migration, should allow the population to exceed the all-time high of 188 reached in the 1999-2000 winter.

One family group on Dewberry Island had either moved to North Shoalwater Bay, or was overlooked. Thus, either 23 or 24 juveniles are present.

Status of migration:

It is estimated that 11 cranes have arrived since the last flight on November 19th. A very strong cold front that reached the Texas coast mid-afternoon on November 23rd brought excellent migration conditions November 23-24. The family group last seen in SE Oklahoma on the 18th is believed to be one of the newly arrived families at Aransas. At least 1 banded territorial pair has not yet arrived at Aransas.

Habitat: Tides were noticeably lower than on previous flights, with about 50% of San Jose Island showing dry mudflats. With bay and marsh salinities generally between 17-18 ppt, 10 cranes were sighted on today's flight at freshwater sources.

The cranes continued to feed heavily on wolfberry. Three prescribed burns were done on November 21 on Matagorda Island totaling 1,110 acres. Two whooping cranes were on Burn Unit B2 on today's flight. Numerous sandhills were on all the burns.

Newly arrived families included the following;
CNA NEST BANDS
Long Reef S22 56/03 G-nil
N. Shoalwater? unknown
N. Power Lake? unknown

Note: The Ayres Island pair (K10, 54/03) was erroneously reported last week as having a chick. They apparently do not.

- Tom Stehn
Email: tom_stehn@fws.gov

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



- Tom Stehn
Email: tom_stehn@fws.gov

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