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 18 May, 2006 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas found 5 subadults and 0 chicks = 5 total still present.
Recap of cranes observed on the flight: (5)*
adults + young
Refuge 5 + 0
San Jose -
Welder Flats ___-__
Total 5 + 0
* Visibility was excellent throughout the flight with full sunshine.
Remarks: The 5 cranes present was 1 less than the total found May 3rd. Only 1 whooping crane from Welder Flats had initiated migration in the past 2 weeks. I was surprised that more had not departed. The 5 remaining birds could still migrate, or 1 or more could over-summer at Aransas.
The 5 subadults were all located on the refuge near Sundown Bay, with 3 at the Pipeline and 2 about a mile further to the south. The cranes all showed a considerable amount of brown-tinged body feathers indicative of old, worn-out feathers that will be replaced in the next molt. These cranes are so "dingy" that they are almost a disgrace compared to the beauty of the usual snow-white plumage of an adult whooping crane. No cranes were seen on today's flight at sources of fresh water, on prescribed burns, or in open bay habitat.
On today's flight, the ongoing seismic exploration on the refuge's Tatton Unit was checked, along with the site of a proposed housing development in the crane area near Port O'Connor. Photos were taken of these areas and of the newly created Alcoa Marsh near Powderhorn Lake.
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