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 02 November, 2005 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes
present at Aransas as 113 adults + 14 young = 127 total. Approximately 235 whooping cranes are expected to arrive at Aransas this winter. Thus, an estimated 54% of the flock has completed the migration.
Recap of cranes observed on the flight: (127)
adults + young
Refuge 41 + 5
Lamar 4 + 0
San Jose 27 + 2
Matagorda 32 + 4
Welder Flats 9 + 3 __
Total 113 + 14 = 127
Remarks: Excellent viewing conditions and light northeast and east winds were present throughout the day. Nearly all of the crane winter area was flown in a 6.3-hour census with contract pilot Dr. Tom Taylor of Rockport, Texas.
An estimated 26 whooping cranes (22 adults and 4 young) have arrived from migration since the previous flight on October 26. The four newly arrived families are from nests 19, 26, 37 and one unknown. The chick arriving from nest 26 that winters at the refuge boat ramp was a pleasant surprise, having apparently not been encountered on the August surveys in Wood Buffalo. Three more banded cranes were identified on today's flight, including one from nest 04 that was expected to bring a chick but did not.
Most of the whooping cranes presumably arrived at Aransas on November 1. More sandhill cranes were also observed compared to last week's flight. A strong Pacific cold front crossed Texas on the evening of October 31. The leading edge of the front brought severe thunderstorms to the Texas coast just as trick or treaters were out and about. This front provided excellent migration conditions throughout much of the flyway October 31 and November 1.
Reports of whooping cranes scattered throughout the migration corridor are still coming in. Most of the birds had departed from Canada by October 22 when temperatures got well below freezing. Another report in Texas was confirmed of 3 birds on October 24 flying over Lake Kickapoo south of Wichita Falls.
Interesting crane locations on today's flight included 3 cranes at Pringle Lake on Matagorda Island, 1 crane on Dewberry Island at Welder Flats, and 2 cranes south of Holiday Beach on Lamar. The male in a one-adult family group seen last week in a group of 3 adults with 1 chick has apparently re-paired, with typical family group spacing with 2 adults and the chick observed on today's flight. The banded 28-year-old female crane had died in Saskatchewan approximately October 8. No cranes so far are visible from the refuge observation tower.
All cranes were found in salt marsh habitat. No cranes were seen on prescribed burns or at sources of fresh water.
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