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Greetings all!

The following report is forwarded with permission from Tom Stehn, USFWS biologist and US Whooping Crane Coordinator.

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Greetings all!

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 17 November, 2005 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes present at Aransas as 167 adults + 27 young = 194 total. Approximately 235 whooping cranes are expected to arrive at Aransas this winter. Thus, an estimated 83% of the flock has completed the migration. Last year at this same time, 86% of the cranes had completed the migration, so this year's migration is similar.

Recap of cranes observed on the flight: (194)

adults + young
Refuge 51 + 8
Lamar 2 + 0
San Jose 41 + 5
Matagorda 59 + 9
Welder Flats 14 + 5
Total 167 + 27 = 194

Remarks: Excellent viewing conditions and moderate northeast winds were present throughout the day. All of the crane winter area was flown in an 8.0-hour census. The flight when combined with data from the past three weeks provides excellent data on what territorial pairs are present at Aransas and which pairs are still in migration. Approximately 16 adult pairs may still be in migration, including one pair with twin chicks.

An estimated 52 + 13 = 65 whooping cranes have arrived from migration since the previous flight on November 9th. Although light northeast winds were favorable for cranes to arrive at Aransas on November 10th, most of the cranes are thought to have arrived with a very strong Pacific front that reached the refuge just before sunset on November 15. On November 16, north winds up to 30 mph were present all day at Aransas. This very strong cold front brought snow to Minnesota, tornados to Kentucky and Tennessee, but really aided the whooping crane migration.

The first pair of twin chicks to arrive at Aransas was first observed by USFWS Pilot Jim Bredy doing a waterfowl census at Aransas on November 16. The pair with twins was identified on today's flight as nesting pair 08-05 containing the banded female G-YbY (1987). Their winter territory is located on the refuge's Sundown Bay across from Roddy Island south of the Pump Canal and north of the Pipeline and Wynne's Cut. The total of 27 chicks that have successfully completed the migration is very encouraging since 31 chicks were estimated to have fledged in August on the nesting grounds. Survival appears to be high. Several more chicks are expected to complete the migration, including a second pair of twins confirmed in Saskatchewan on November 10th.

Interesting crane locations on today's flight included 9 cranes on the refuge's Bludworth Island, and 6 subadults scattered south of the refuge's Mustang Slough. No cranes so far are visible from the refuge observation tower. The refuge's Boat Ramp pair has arrived with a juvenile, as has the Dewberry island pair with a juvenile closest to Port O'Connor. No cranes were found on the extreme north end of Matagorda Island although one crane had been confirmed present in that area on November 12.

Most cranes were found in salt marsh habitat. Twenty-three cranes in 8 groups were seen at or near sources of fresh water, including two subadult groups of 4 cranes each. Marsh and bay salinities were measured at 21 and 22 parts per thousand on 11-16-05, approaching the level when cranes are forced to seek out freshwater to drink. Some cranes were in dry, high marsh habitat feeding on wolfberries, with many others believed foraging on blue crabs.

A flamingo sighted on and off since mid-September was present at Goose Island State Park November 11-15 across from the south tip of Aransas, but was not sighted on today's flight. This bird was color-banded on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula earlier this year as a juvenile.

Cedar Bayou, the natural pass between the Gulf of Mexico and Mesquite Bay located between San Jose and Matagorda islands remains open, but the connection from Cedar Bayou into Vinson Slough on San Jose remains plugged. A recent engineering study recommends that both of these connections should be open to increase the length of time Cedar Bayou remains flowing before it next silts shut. Cedar Bayou is an important passageway for many marine species to complete their life cycle, including the blue crab.

Tom Stehn
Whooping Crane Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Aransas NWR
P.O. Box 100
Austwell, TX 77950
(361) 286-3559 Ext. 221
fax (361) 286-3722
E:mail: tom_stehn@fws.gov

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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: tom_stehn@fws.gov. 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
email: patty@ccbirding.com
web: http://www.ccbirding.com/

Tom Stehn
Whooping Crane Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Aransas NWR
P.O. Box 100
Austwell, TX 77950
(361) 286-3559 Ext. 221
fax (361) 286-3722
E:mail: tom_stehn@fws.gov

------------- end report ----------------

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: tom_stehn@fws.gov. 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
email: patty@ccbirding.com
web:  http://www.ccbirding.com/