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Greetings all!

The following report is forwarded with permission from Tom Stehn, USFWS biologist and US Whooping Crane Coordinator.

CONGRATULATIONS to everyone involved in and concerned about this wonderful recovery effort! Each time the next delicate milestone is reached, it really crystalizes just how effective everyone's role is in helping the whooping crane rebuild its population. From biologists to educators to the sneaker net -- every role is important!

As spring migration gets underway, please be sure and report all whooping crane migrational sightings. Tom's email address is in his signature block below.

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An aerial whooping crane census of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas was conducted on 10 April by contract pilot Gary Ritchey of Air Logistic Solutions, San Antonio, Texas with observer Tom Stehn.

The census found 61 adults and 11 chicks = 72 total.

Recap of cranes found: (72)
|------------+--------------|
| |adults + young|
|------------+--------------|
| Refuge | 9 + 1 |
|------------+--------------|
| Lamar | - |
|------------+--------------|
| San Jose | 13 + 4 |
|------------+--------------|
| Matagorda | 32 + 6 |
|------------+--------------|
| Welder | 7 + 0 |
| Flats | |
|------------+--------------|
| Total | 61 + 11 = |
| |72 |
|------------+--------------|


Whooping cranes have started the migration from all parts of the crane range. April 6 seemed to be the day when a noticeable number of cranes departed Aransas, although some had departed before that. Sightings in the migration corridor indicate the whooping cranes are currently spread out across the U.S. as far north as North Dakota. The total flock size remains estimated at 237 with no mortality documented during the 2006-07 winter.

Some of the crane range was empty or practically empty. All of the cranes had departed from the Lamar Peninsula, and only 1 crane was found on the north half of Matagorda Island north of Panther Point. Based on the locations and groupings observed, I estimated that only 11 adult pairs are left on the wintering grounds out of the approximately 66 adult pairs that were present during the winter. Four of the seven wintering "twin" families have started the migration.

On San Jose, one crane grouping of two turned out to be 2 juveniles with no other cranes around. The parents of the E. Spalding Cove twin chicks had started the migration leaving their youngsters behind. This happens occasionally at Aransas. The juveniles will be fine and are able to migrate back to Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada on their own. In some locations on the winter range, the cranes were bunched up. For example, 7 cranes were on the refuge's Ayres/Roddy Island and 8 cranes were just north of Long Reef on San Jose. This is sometimes observed prior to the migration.

Tides were very high on today's flight with all tidal flats covered with water. No cranes were seen on uplands, prescribed burns, open bays or at sources of freshwater. Recent rains have dramatically lowered bay salinities so the marshes are relatively fresh.

The next census flight is scheduled for April 19th. Today's flight was conducted in the afternoon because of morning fog. Visibility during the flight was excellent with full sunshine. The entire crane range was covered in 4 hours of flight time. The Cessna 210 is a faster airplane with speeds from 80 to 140 knots utilized during the census depending on the expected crane density.

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/