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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November 16, 2004
An aerial census on 16 November, 2004 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes present at 158 adults + 28 young = 186 total.
Recap of cranes observed: (186)
adults + young
Refuge 65 + 12
Lamar 4 + 1
San Jose 22 + 5
Matagorda 49 + 7
Welder Flats 18 + 3
Total 158 + 28 = 186
Remarks: Flight conditions were fair with lots of sun but some overcast and occasional light rain showers. Tide levels were high (3.4 mlt measured on November 15), up 1.1 feet from last week, with no mudflats on San Jose Island exposed. Water levels were unusually high with the marshes flooded.
The number of cranes present at Aransas is 186. An estimated 34 adults + 10 young have arrived since the last flight on November 10th. Most of these birds are believed to have arrived November 11-14, riding in on north winds associated with a cold front that had crossed the Texas coast on November 11th.
New family groups to arrive are from nests 44, 48, 50, and 53, and 5 unknowns. The Narrow Cove winter territorial pair at Welder Flats has arrived in Shoalwater Bay with twin chicks! This is the third set of twins to make it to Aransas since 1997, and one of 5 sets of twins alive in August in Wood Buffalo National Park. One of the unknown families to arrive winters in front of the Refuge observation tower at Mustang Lake which will delight visitors throughout the winter. There was some more evidence of chick mortality that has occurred since the August nesting ground surveys. Pairs from nests 15 and 18 that had chicks in August have arrived without chicks. Interesting locations on today's flight included a family group near the Army Hole towards the north end of Matagorda Island, and the Big Tree family group on Newcomb Bend Marsh on Lamar.
With the presence of 186 whooping cranes at Aransas, the migration is nearly 90% completed. A few whooping cranes were reported recently at Salt Plains NWR in Oklahoma. One white-plumaged crane is currently at Quivira NWR in Kansas. One whooping crane chick has separated from its parents and was last reported in northeastern Colorado. A few more territorial pairs are expected to arrive based on empty winter territories at Aransas. Stragglers can continue to arrive into December, with peak counts for the
winter usually not made until mid-December.
Of the two whooping cranes shot in Kansas near the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge on November 6th, the one with the amputated leg has died. The bird with the injured wing is not feeding itself, but is stable and is scheduled to be shipped from Kansas State University to Patuxent on November 18. A third white-plumaged whooping crane was also shot at in the same incident in Kansas. Based on circumstantial evidence, this may be the crane remaining at Quivira. This bird is being monitored and has been observed making several short flights to forage. It is hoped it will continue the migration.
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