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: email@example.com. 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 28, 2004 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes at Aransas to be 2 adults + 1 young = 3.
Recap of cranes observed: (3)
adults + young
Refuge 2 + 1
Remarks: Flight conditions were good with bright overcast skies and light winds. Only the refuge was covered with 1.4 hours of flight time.
The number of whooping cranes found totaled 3. The juvenile was identified by light brown feathers seen on the head and a small patch of brown on the back. An estimated 190 whooping cranes (98% of the population) have started the migration, with reports starting to be received of whooping cranes in Saskatchewan. A few subadult cranes (and once a widowed adult) occasionally have stayed at Aransas into the first week in May before departing. Winds at Aransas were unfavorable for migration April 25-27 with a low pressure system bringing north winds.
The 3 cranes together in the Middle Sundown Bay territory I believe were the Behind Middle Pond one adult family joined by another white-plumaged crane. However, they could have also been two subadults and the chick from the Behind Middle Pond single adult family, or the Pipeline family group. However, the chick was at first seen separate from the 2 white-plumaged
cranes, showing similar independence similar to that shown by the Behind Middle Pond chick all winter. Last week, the Pipeline family group was believed to have started the migration by noon. At noon that day, a single white-plumaged crane was seen close to where the three cranes were seen today. Perhaps this had been the widowed Behind Middle Pond adult and the
chick had been overlooked. However, the single bird seen at noon last week had looked bedraggled with some gray markings on the feathers, whereas the two white-plumaged cranes seen today showed typical plumage.
Habitat: No cranes were observed at fresh water sources, uplands, burns, or in open bay habitat.
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