The following report is forwarded with permission from Tom Stehn, USFWS biologist and US Whooping Crane Coordinator.
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An aerial census on 26 October, 2005 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes present at Aransas at 91 adults + 10 young = 101 total. Approximately 235 whooping cranes are expected to arrive at Aransas this winter. Thus, an estimated 43% of the flock has completed the migration.
Recap of cranes observed on the flight: (101)
adults + young
Refuge 32 + 3
Lamar 2 + 0
San Jose 20 + 1
Matagorda 30 + 4
Welder Flats 7 + 2 __
Total 91 + 10 = 101
Remarks: Excellent viewing conditions and moderate winds were present throughout the day. Nearly all of the crane winter area was flown in a 6.5-hour census.
An estimated 98 whooping cranes (88 adults and 10 young) have arrived from migration since the previous flight on October 19. A weak front crossed Texas on October 21 and helped steer Hurricane Wilma away from the Texas coast. A strong cold front with winds gusting up to 40 mph crossed the Texas coast on the evening of October 23. This front provided excellent migration conditions across Texas on October 23-25. Most of the whooping cranes present on today s flight presumably completed migration in association with these two fronts, pushing the migration slightly ahead of average.
Multiple reports of whooping cranes were reported during the past week throughout the U.S. whooping crane migration corridor. The first confirmed sighting in Texas was 6 birds flying south over Weatherford, Texas (just east of Fort Worth) on October 25. Eight cranes were sighted at Magic Ridge near Indianola, Texas about 10 miles north of the wintering area on the morning of October 26. These cranes took flight by 11 AM, but it is not yet known if they completed their migration and were seen during the census flight.
The crane pair known as Lobstick has arrived with a juvenile and should provide excellent viewing for the tour boats this winter. No cranes so far are visible from the refuge observation tower. A one-adult family group is believed to have arrived based on the presence of a group of 3+1 seen on Matagorda Island in the known territory of a banded 28-year-old female crane that had died in Saskatchewan approximately October 8.
A blue crab count done at Aransas on October 25th indicated the refrigerator is fully stocked for the whooping cranes this fall. Crabs were abundant and wolfberry flowers were everywhere, with a few plants already bearing fruits that are readily consumed by cranes.
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