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 April 14, 2004 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes at Aransas to be 11 adults + 3 young = 14.
Recap of cranes observed: (14)
adults + young
Refuge 7 + 2
San Jose 4 + 1
Welder Flats -
Total 11 + 3 = 14
Remarks: Flight conditions were excellent with sunny skies and light winds during 5.9 hours of flight time.
The number of whooping cranes found totaled 14. This included 3 family groups and 6 subadults. One of the family groups was the "Behind Middle Pond" single adult family. It is noteworthy that after spending much of the winter with another adult crane, the family was back to being a one adult family. Thus, re-pairing of this adult whose identity is unknown in Canada had not occurred at Aransas during the winter.
An estimated 95 whooping cranes have started the migration since the last flight on April 7. Conditions for migration were suitable April 8-10 but unsuitable April 11-13 as a strong low pressure system with strong north winds crossed the coast. On today's flight, after seeing two subadults and the unbanded E. Spalding Lake family group at approximately 0830 AM, these 5 cranes were not sighted during re-checks at 1220 and 1500 hours and are believed to have started migration by late morning. Winds had switched to the southeast by noon at about 5 mph after being calm or from 320 degrees up to about 10 AM. Even with light southeast winds, the strong thermals would have provided suitable migration conditions.
The third territorial family group present was the Pipeline family. Two cranes together on Dunham Point were possibly subadults. The Mustang Lake pair seen from the refuge observation tower has migrated.
The migration leaving Aransas is just about over with an estimated 9 cranes still present at the end of the day. Thus, 95% of the population has started migration. Strong southeast winds are forecast for the next three days, so most of the cranes should be gone by next week. Whooping cranes have been reported recently all the way from Texas to North Dakota. All but possibly 1 of the eastern whooping cranes have started the migration, with many back in Wisconsin already.
Habitat: No cranes were observed at fresh water sources, uplands, burns, or in open bay habitat. Tides were notably low due to the strong low pressure system and north winds present April 11-13.
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