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 08 November, 2006 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas found 132 adults and 24 chicks = 156 total.
Recap of estimated cranes present: (156)
adults + young
Refuge 49 + 7
Lamar 2 + 1
San Jose 26 + 4
Matagorda 42 + 10
Welder Flats 13 + 2
Total 132 + 24
Remarks: Nearly all whooping crane areas were covered during an aerial crane survey conducted November 8th. The flight was delayed by early morning fog before clear skies and light winds predominated.
The total of 156 cranes present is an increase of 89 adults + 19 juveniles = 108 cranes since the last flight on November 1st. The cranes were believed to have arrived with favorable migration conditions at Aransas November 1-3 and November 7.
In most years, a majority of the whooping crane flock arrives at Aransas approximately November 4-7, so this year showed a similar pattern. Sightings compiled by the USFWS Endangered Species office in Nebraska indicated that starting in November, nearly all whooping cranes reported were at least as far south as the Platte River in central Nebraska, although a single bird may have been in west central Minnesota on November 4th. Recent sighting reports in the migration corridor indicate that the rest of the flock is currently most likely spread between Kansas and points further south.
Present on today's flight were two sets of twins (an adult pair with 2 chicks). This ties the winter with the most sets of twins that have arrived at Aransas since the collection of second eggs on the nesting grounds ended in 1996. A family with twin chicks is currently at Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge in northern Kansas. Color bands were identified on seven cranes at Aransas. The single adult family last week on Matagorda Island was grouped as two adults close together with the chick, a probable indication that re-pairing has occurred. Three cranes found on Aransas that over-summered were still together located on the refuge between Sundown and Dunham bays.
On today's flight, 8 cranes were sighted at fresh water sources and 3 were on a recent prescribed burn. Tides had increased since last week, with no cranes observed in open bays.
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