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 20 October, 2006 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas found 7 adults and 0 chicks = 7 total. One additional whooping crane was sighted by Aransas staff on October 21st on Dewberry Island near Port O'Connor that was not covered during the census flight.
Recap of estimated cranes present: (8)
adults + young
Refuge 5 + 0
San Jose 2 + 0
Welder Flats 1 + 0
Total 8 + 0
Remarks: Key whooping crane areas were covered during an aerial waterfowl survey conducted October 20 by Pilot Jim Bredy and Biologists Patrick Walther and Tom Stehn in the USFWS regional aircraft. My thanks go to Jim and Patrick for their help, with Patrick spotting the first whooping cranes of the migration season. With the retirement this past summer of Pilot Tom Taylor who has flown the whooping crane census flights for the past 12 years, I plan this winter to do about 2 flights per month from November through March. I will use 2 different USFWS aircraft and also I am trying to get a contract airplane certified based in San Antonio.
A total of 7 whooping cranes were sighted on the flight. One additional whooping crane was sighted by Aransas staff on October 21st on Dewberry Island near Port O'Connor not covered during the census flight. A trio of cranes found on Aransas that over-summered was still together just west of Sundown Bay. The 5 whooping cranes that had completed the migration were split as two singles on opposite ends of the refuge, a single on Dewberry Island near Port O'Connor, and a duo on San Jose Island. These first migratory cranes presumably arrived with a strong cold front that reached the Texas coast in the early morning hours of October 19. This is just 3 days later than the average first whooping crane arrival on October 16th. A second and stronger cold front crossed the Texas coast during the early morning hours of October 22 with northwest winds gusting around 30 mph. Additional whooping cranes presumably arrived with this front.
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