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Here's the official USFWS
news release on the new whooper record!
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
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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December 1, 2004
The Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane
population has reached a new record high. An aerial census on 01 December, 2004 of the
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of
whooping cranes present at 183 adults + 33 young = 216 total.
Recap of cranes
adults + young
Refuge 61 + 11
Lamar 2 + 1
San Jose 32 +
Matagorda 58 +
Welder Flats 17 +
Total 170 + 31 = 201
The count on San Jose
is grossly underestimated due to poor visibility.
Remarks: Flight conditions were good, but increasing
clouds turned into heavy overcast by afternoon making it difficult to find
cranes, especially on San Jose
Island. Tide levels were high with refuge tides
measured at 3.4 mlt on 11-30-04. However, about 30% of San Jose Island
was exposed mudflats. A large amount of
water hyacinth was observed on today’s flight in the bay near Matagorda Island,
an indicator of very large inflows from the Guadalupe River. Highway 35 north of Aransas where it crosses
the Guadalupe River was recently closed due to high
water from recent flooding rains upstream but has re-opened.
The number of cranes
present at Aransas is estimated at a record 216 and exceeds the previous high
of 213 reached last week. The flock
consists of 131 adults, 52 subadults, and 33 chicks. The Big Tree and Long Reef
banded families known present were overlooked on today’s flight to account for
33 juveniles total. The 33 chicks are
the most to ever arrive at Aransas. The
67 cranes found on Matagorda
Island is a record total
surpassing the previous high of 65 set in March, 2003. One family group (nest 08/04) found on their
North Lamar territory has arrived since the last flight on November 24th. One of the adults is color-banded as
YbY-RwR. Perhaps this was the family
group reported at Quivira NWR in Kansas
on the morning of November 21st. Cold
fronts crossed the Texas
coast November 24, 27, and 30 providing favorable migration conditions.
If there had been no mortality since last spring, the
Aransas-Wood Buffalo population could have reached 226 (193 adults/subadults
present last spring + 33 juveniles produced = 226). The current population of 216, plus the 1
bird currently in Kansas,
and the 2 birds shot in Kansas,
leave only 7 whooping cranes unaccounted for that could still be in
migration. “Stragglers” can continue to
arrive at Aransas into December, with peak counts for the winter usually not
made until mid-December. Traditional
winter territories that are currently unoccupied include Allyn’s Bight, Curve
Bayou, and Narrow Cove. Thus, a few more
territorial pairs could arrive at Aransas.
However, it is probable that most of the 7 cranes unaccounted for are
probable mortality between spring and fall.
In recent years, annual mortality has been about 12 cranes per year. Territorial pairs documented present on
today’s flight include N. Allyn’s Bight and Middle Sundown
With the presence of
216 whooping cranes at Aransas, the migration is estimated to be 99 % complete. One whooping crane chick has separated from
its parents and was last reported in northeastern Colorado on November 4th. One white-plumaged crane is still present at
Quivira NWR in Kansas
that is believed to be the third crane shot at by a hunting party on November 6th.
This bird is being monitored, looks okay, and hopefully will continue the
migration. The one surviving crane of
the two shot in Kansas
was shipped from Kansas
to the Patuxent Wildlife Research
Center on November
18th. It is in “guarded” condition. It is starting to eat natural foods (smelt
and grains) but has an elevated white blood cell count and slight raspy
breathing. It is still receiving some
tube feeding and is taking 2 antibiotics and antifungal medicine. My thanks go
to all of the Patuxent
Center staff involved in
caring for this bird.
Interesting locations on today’s flight included the
refuge’s Blackjack Point family that was believed to be on San Jose Island. One pair of twin chicks was back near Vee
Bayou on Matagorda where they had been previously been reported on November
19th. They are apparently moving back
and forth between Matagorda
Island and Welder
Flats. On today’s flight, the largest
group observed was 4 subadult cranes on the refuge’s Sundown Island.
One swan was sighted on today’s flight in Espiritu Santos
Bay just east of
Charlie’s Landing (southwest of Port O’Connor, Texas).
Swans are rarely seen on the Texas
coast. A mute swan was reported near
this area on October 5th and is presumably the same bird.
- Tom Stehn
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Patty Waits Beasley
Corpus Christi, TX