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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 15 November, 2006 of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas found 169 adults and 39 chicks = 208 total.

Recap of estimated cranes present: (208)

  adults + young
Refuge 60 + 10
Lamar 4 + 3
San Jose 33 + 8
Matagorda 55 + 15
Welder Flats 17 + 3
Total 169 + 39 = 208

Remarks: Nearly all whooping crane areas were covered during an aerial crane survey conducted November 15th. A cold front that reached the coast a few hours before the flight brought clear skies and west-northwest winds at around 25 mph and gusting above 35 mph. The 'rock and roll' conditions made for a very rough ride and did not allow low approaches to be made past the cranes to look for bands.

The total of 208 cranes present is an increase of 37 adults + 15 juveniles = 52 cranes since the last flight on November 8th. The new cranes are believed to have arrived with favorable migration conditions at Aransas November 11 and November 15. New arrivals included 4 pairs with 'twin' chicks, and 7 pairs with a single chick. The 39 chicks currently at Aransas is an all-time high, surpassing the previous high of 34 in 2004. A total of 6 sets of 'twins' are present, also beating the previous high of 4 sets of twins in 1958. On additional set of twins with banded adult green-high silver and unbanded mate have been at Kirwin NWR in northern Kansas at least through November 15. An additional migration sighting has been 4 adults at Cheyenne Bottoms in central Kansas on November 13th. None of these cranes would have had time to reach Aransas by today's flight.

On today's flight, 5 cranes were sighted at fresh water sources and 3 were on a prescribed burn. Salinities have risen recently, measured November 14 at 20 ppt in the refuge boat canal and 24 ppt in the adjacent marsh. Tides were higher than last week, with no cranes observed in open bays. The extremely strong west-northwest winds were pushing lots of water onto tidal flats on San Jose and Matagorda islands. The salt marsh vegetation on the edges of Cedar Bayou was inundated.

A family group that is stained brown on the legs and bellies that may have walked into a pond containing an oily substance was not found on today's flight and may not yet have arrived at Aransas. One adult in that family group is color-banded, but it has not been possible from excellent photographs to determine the colors of the bands. On today's flight, we checked the North Cottonwood family looking for stains and did not see any, but the high winds made it difficult to get low enough to be sure that stains were not present. The stained family could also be the Spalding Lake family group on San Jose Island which has not yet arrived at Aransas.

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/