The following report is forwarded with permission from Tom Stehn, USFWS biologist and US Whooping Crane Coordinator.
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A whooping crane census conducted October 19, 2005 of the wintering grounds located a total of 3 whooping cranes. Two migrant cranes were together on San Jose Island, and the whooping crane injured last spring that over summered at Aransas was present near the refuge's Sundown Bay and continued to look fine. The two cranes on San Jose were the first migrant whooping cranes to arrive and could have arrived shortly after a cold front crossed the Texas coast on October 8. This has been the only low pressure system to reach Aransas this fall. The average date for the first whooping cranes to arrive at Aransas in the fall is October 16.
Recent reports from the flyway indicated many of the whooping cranes are in Saskatchewan, with only 3 reports in the U.S. (2 from North Dakota and 1 from Montana). Canadian Whooping Crane Coordinator Brian Johns on October 18 observed a group of 19 at Muskiki Lake, SK. That day, he picked up the remains of a whooping crane banded Green-Red as a juvenile in 1977, the oldest banded bird in the flock. This 28-year-old female was with her mate and juvenile, but was not staying close together as a typical family group when observed by Brian on October 3, indicating a possible health problem for the female. On October 8, Brian received a report of only one adult with a juvenile present, and later was able to get to the site and recover the carcass. The cause of death is not known.
Red tide, a microscopic algae that can cause large fish kills, has been present in the Corpus Christi, Texas and surrounding areas since mid-October. None has been reported further north in the whooping crane area. Cedar Bayou, a natural pass between the Gulf of Mexico and Mesquite Bay within whooping crane critical habitat has remained open throughout 2005. This pass, important for many organisms, including blue crabs that reproduce in the Gulf to complete their life cycle, has a history of silting closed.
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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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/
Patty Waits Beasley
Corpus Christi, TX