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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October 20, 2004
An aerial census on October 20, 2004 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes present at 16 adults + 0 young = 16.
Recap of cranes observed: (16)
adults + young
Refuge 2 + 0
San Jose 10 + 0
Matagorda 2 + 0
Welder Flats 2 + 0
Total 16 + 0 = 16
Weather: Flight conditions were very good with sunshine and moderate southeast winds. The southeast winds and near record high temperatures in the lower 90's make it unlikely that any additional cranes will complete the migration until the current weather pattern changes. The next major front is forecast to reach the Texas coast on October 30th.
Cranes Present: The number of cranes estimated present at Aransas is 16. All cranes sighted were in groups of two, and none were color-banded. The first 2 cranes to arrive were sighted on San Jose Island on October 12th. The following morning, 2 additional cranes were sighted on Lamar Peninsula and apparently flew on to the refuge later that day. A cold front with strong northwest winds crossed the Texas coast on October 14th, presumably bringing more cranes.
Habitat Use at Aransas: About half of the cranes at Aransas were in high marsh habitat, presumably feeding on wolfberries. Tides were measured at 2.4 mlt on March 19th. All of the flats on San Jose were covered with water, indicating the marshes are still full and the drop of tides only recent. Salinities in both marsh and bay were at 15 ppt last week. Crabs are thought to be abundant in the marshes, but I was unable to complete a crab count on October 13th due to an encounter with an alligator that resulted in 25 stitches in my leg. I think I was hit by the claw of the gator as it moved out of the way along a narrow bayou in the salt marsh. During today's crane census flight, I had my leg propped up and it is
Migration sightings: Whooping cranes have been sighted in the U.S. from North Dakota to Oklahoma, including a group of 8 at Salt Plains NWR in Oklahoma on October 17th. Numerous migration sightings have been made in Saskatchewan this fall, including multiple families. Two sets of twins were reported, including 1 adult with 2 chicks indicating that mortality of one parent had occurred. A second instance of mortality was noted when a family consisting of 1 adult and 1 chick was reported. A notably large
group of 17 was at Muskiki Lake October 8-13. Saskatchewan had considerable snow October 16-18th, with 25 cm falling in Saskatoon.
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