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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November 10, 2004
An aerial census on 10 November, 2004 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes present at 124 adults + 18 young = 142.
Recap of cranes observed: (142)
adults + young
Refuge 43 + 9
Lamar 2 + 1
San Jose 26 + 4
Matagorda 43 + 4
Welder Flats 10 + 0
Total 124 + 18 = 142
Remarks: Flight conditions were excellent with a lot of sunshine and southeast winds. Tide levels were at mid-range (2.3 mlt measured on November 8), with about 20% of the mudflats on San Jose Island exposed.
The number of cranes present at Aransas is 142. An estimated 99 adults + 17 young have arrived since the last flight on November 3rd. Most of these birds are believed to have arrived November 3-5, riding in on north winds associated with a cold front that had crossed the Texas coast on November 2nd. A few cranes may have arrived November 6 or 7 when winds were generally light and from the east with sunny skies. Conditions were unfavorable for migration on November 8-10. Peak arrivals normally occur from November 4-10, and this year the cranes were right on schedule. Twenty-seven sandhill cranes were sighted on today‚¨"s flight on San Jose Island, indicating sandhills have also arrived, along with numerous ducks. No sandhills were sighted the previous week.
Family groups present at Aransas are from nests 1, 4, 7, 9, 16, 17, 19, 27, 41, 47, K-10, and 7 unknowns. The Lobstick pair (nest 1) that brought twins last year has a single chick. The Ayres Island pair (K-10) for which a nest was not found in 2004, has apparently arrived with a chick. This is an unbanded pair so I"ll have to see them multiple times on their winter territory before I can make a conclusion about their identity. The family group from nest 17 had not been found on August surveys but does have a chick. The pair with a territory in front of the Aransas Refuge observation tower has not yet arrived.
There is some evidence of chick mortality that has occurred since the August nesting ground surveys. Family 41 that had twins in August has arrived at Aransas with only 1 chick. The pair from nest 10 that had a chick in August has arrived without a chick, as identified by the color band on the male. Several other pairs may have arrived without chicks that were expected, but it is too early to draw any conclusions since unbanded subadult duos on today"s census could have been occupying winter territories prior to the arrival of territorial families.
One chick has separated from its parents and has been confirmed present November 3-4 in northeastern Colorado (Washington County) where it was with sandhill cranes. This bird is expected to continue in migration and could winter in West Texas.
With the presence of 142 whooping cranes at Aransas, the migration is about 2/3‚¨"s completed. Large numbers of whooping cranes were reported in the last week at Quivira NWR in Kansas (n=22) and Salt Plains NWR in Oklahoma (n=32). A cold front that reached the Texas coast on November 11th is expected to bring some of these birds to Aransas.
Two whooping cranes were shot in Kansas near the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge on November 6th. A party of sandhill crane hunters has apparently admitted to the shooting. Reported by a landowner as injured, both cranes were picked up and driven to Manhatten, Kansas. Dr. Jim Carpenter and other veterinary staff at Kansas State University performed surgery on both birds, having to amputate the leg of one bird that had been hanging by a tendon, and pin the broken wing of the other bird. Radiographs showed numerous embedded pellets. The bird with the injured leg has subsequently died, and the remaining bird is doing poorly as can be expected. My appreciation goes to Dr. Carpenter and all the veterinary staff for their efforts. If the one bird recovers, it will be shipped to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and added to the captive breeding flock.
A blue crab and wolfberry count was conducted at Aransas on November 8th. Volunteer Katherine Cullen and Tom Stehn counted 215 crabs of all sizes in 1.5 hours hiking the marsh, and noted 740 wolfberries and 4 flowers in a 100-yard transect across high marsh habitat. I would currently rate these food resources for whooping cranes as high as I have ever seen them. The above average rains throughout the spring and summer are presumably a primary factor resulting in this abundance of food.
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