RETURN TO HOME PAGE 

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/

------------- begin report --------------

An aerial census on December 3rd, 2003 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes present at 161 adults + 24 young = 185 total.

Recap of cranes observed: (185)

adults + young Change from
11/26/03
Refuge 44 + 9 - 2
Lamar 5 + 1 + 1
San Jose 38 + 6 - 3
Matagorda 58 + 6 + 10
Welder Flats 16 + 2 - 2
Total 161 + 24 = 185 + 4


The 44 cranes seen on San Jose ties the peak number ever recorded for that area. The 64 cranes on Matagorda is one less than the record high set last spring.

Remarks: Light southeast winds provided smooth flying. All of the crane area plus additional marsh on the north end of Matagorda Island was covered in 8.1 hours of flight time. High overcast provided good visibility most of the day, but clouds were darker in the morning on the northern portions of San Jose, making it probable that several cranes were overlooked in that area.

New arrivals from last week included the Pipeline family group and the Allyn's Bight pair. If these 5 newly arrived cranes are added to last week's population estimate of 183, then it is probable that 188 whooping cranes are present. However, since we could only find 185 on the flight, this lower number remains my current estimate. Efforts will be made on future flights to get a more accurate count. Although more cranes are hoped for, it is troubling that a few more cranes weren't found on today's flight. Peak population counts are usually made at Aransas no earlier than mid-December. I am hopeful that the population this winter will exceed the all-time high of 188 reached in the 1999-2000 winter, but I am concerned that today's early December total wasn't higher.

No cranes were located on Dewberry Island where on two earlier flights this winter a family group was present. Additional searching on the north end of Matagorda Island did not find additional cranes. It is possible the Dewberry Island family group has; a) either moved elsewhere in the crane area and is one of the 24 family groups seen on today's flight, or b) its identity is actually the E. Welder family that was when it first arrived first seen on Dewberry Island on two consecutive flights, Oct. 29th and Nov. 5th, before moving on to its regular territory, or c) it has moved outside the census area, perhaps to the rice country about 10 miles NW of Dewberry Island.

I hope the latter is true and that they will be confirmed as the 25th family group at Aransas when they return to their territory. There also is presumably a juvenile whooping crane separated from its parents wintering away from Aransas, presumably with sandhills. This juvenile was seen in Saskatchewan in early October, and in Young County, Texas on November 2nd.

Status of migration: Excellent migration conditions that occurred November 27-28 would have allowed remaining migrants to reach the refuge. There have been no recent reports of whooping cranes in migration, although "stragglers" have been known to arrive in mid-December. The Jay Bird Pt. pair (K15 , nest 51/03) has apparently recently arrived without an expected chick they had in mid-August.

Habitat: Tides were still moderately low, measured at 2.2 mlt at the refuge boat ramp. Two cranes were sighted on at a freshwater source. No cranes were on prescribed burns, with a recent prescribed burn done on Welder Flats.

- Tom Stehn
Email: tom_stehn@fws.gov

------------- end report ----------------

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



- Tom Stehn
Email: tom_stehn@fws.gov

------------- end report ----------------

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