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 01 November, 2006 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas found 43 adults and 5 chicks = 48 total.
Recap of estimated cranes present: (48)
adults + young
Refuge 13 + 2
San Jose 8 + 0
Matagorda 18 + 3
Welder Flats 4 + 0
Total 43 + 5
Remarks: Nearly all whooping crane areas were covered during an aerial crane survey on November 1st. Contract pilot Tom Taylor who has come out of retirement for up to 6 weeks to fly the weekly crane surveys. No other contract pilot in Texas is approved for low-level flight.
A total of 42 whooping cranes were sighted on the flight. Two additional whooping crane families were sighted by Aransas staff after the conclusion of the census flight and are included in the total estimated present of 48. An estimated 38 cranes arrived since the last flight on October 20th. Most cranes were believed to have arrived with strong cold fronts that reached the Texas coast on October 27th and November 1. Five of the cranes were first seen in flight over Matagorda Island and are believed to have been completing the migration. We followed the 5 cranes for about 11 miles, with all landing on Matagorda but split into groups of 3 and 2 and landing about 6 miles apart.
One crane family on Matagorda consisted of one adult + 1 chick. This could be the same birds as the 1+1 grouping reported at Last Mountain Lake in Saskatchewan Oct. 10-14. Three cranes found on Aransas that over-summered were still together located between Sundown and Dunham bays. The Lobstick family was known to have arrived October 28th.
On today's flight, 2 groups of cranes were sighted at fresh water sources. Water salinities have climbed in the past week with San Antonio Bay readings currently at 17 ppt. Two cranes were in a wet swale on the green-up on prescribed burn unit C6 conducted about a month ago on Matagorda Island near Pringle 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