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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03-29-04 correction to 03-23-04 report:
I reported erroneously the Lobstick twin family as having started the migration. The family of 4 was seen back on their territory on March 26th. Thus, very few cranes had departed by my March 24th flight, with only 1 territorial pair unaccounted for that day.
Migration conditions were excellent on the Texas coast March 26-28. Two whooping cranes were confirmed at Salt Plains NWR in Oklahoma on March 28th.
It is still early. In a typical year, most adult pairs don't leave until the second week in April, give or take a few days. However, last spring, the migration was on the early side with nearly 1/3rd of the flock having left Aransas by April 2nd.
03-23-04 original report:
An aerial census on March 23, 2004 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and
surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes at Aransas to be a
minimum of 159 adults + 22 young = 181.
Recap of cranes observed: (181)
adults + young
Refuge 41 + 7
Lamar 4 + 1
San Jose 39 + 6
Matagorda 60 + 6
Welder Flats 15 + 2
Total 159 + 22 = 181
Remarks: Flight conditions were fair with bright overcast mixed with sun throughout the day. Winds were strong, gusting up to 20 mph from the southeast. Haze limited visibility and kept accumulating on the windshield.
The number of cranes estimated present at Aransas is a minimum of 181. Approximately 6-10 cranes are believed to have started the migration, including the following territorial cranes; the Lobstick pair with their twin chicks, and the Grass Island pair from Welder Flats. All other pairs were present on their territories. It is probable that several subadults were overlooked on the flight.
There are at present no confirmed sightings in the Flyway. One whooping crane was reported earlier on the Platte River in Nebraska, but was only seen once. Two albino sandhills are currently being reported on the Platte where sandhill numbers are peaking. No sandhills were seen on today's flight at Aransas.
Habitat: Tides have risen substantially, measured at 2.7 mlt on March 22. The higher tides and warmer water temperatures have allowed blue crabs to move back into the marshes and are believed at present to be the predominate food of the cranes. Salinities are between 19-22 ppt. On today's flight, two cranes were seen at an apparent freshwater source. No cranes were on prescribed burns. Cranes were in a variety of habitats, but most were in open water or flooded vegetation. Some were standing alert on sandflats.
Whooping Crane Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 100
Austwell, TX 77950
(361) 286-3559 Ext. 221
fax (361) 286-3722
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Patty Waits Beasley
Corpus Christi, TX