April 02, 1998

TO: Division of Endangered Species, USFWS, Albuquerque, NM

FROM: Whooping Crane Coordinator, Aransas NWR, Austwell, Texas

SUBJECT: Whooping Crane Census at Aransas

An aerial census of the Aransas NWR and surrounding areas made 4/02/98 revealed the presence of 70 adults, 46 subadults, and 23 young = 139 whooping cranes. The flight was made in charter aircraft with Tom Stehn as observer. Peak population this winter was 152 + 30 = 182. With the loss of one adult crane, the flock is currently estimated at 181.

Recap of cranes observed: (139)

Refuge Lamar San Jose Matagorda Welder Other Total

41+10 2+2 27+4 37+6 9+1 * 116+23=139

* Two subadult crane singles were on the Platte River in late March. A juvenile whooper also present on the Platte was believed to be the bird that wintered in Brazoria County, Texas.

Remarks: Flight conditions were excellent once morning low clouds and occasional very light drizzle dissipated. The 139 cranes located indicate an estimated 42 cranes have started the spring migration. Twenty-three cranes (five families and four pairs) have started the migration since last week's flight on March 26 when 162 cranes were estimated present. The largest departure occurred at Welder Flats with 11 fewer cranes compared with last week. Weather conditions were excellent for migration at the end of March.

Interesting locations on the flight included the Twin family on the northeast end of Copano Bay, the Salt Creek family by Dunham Bay, a duo on Dewberry Island near Port O'Connor, a duo near Pringle Lake, and the Blackjack family's continued use of Allyn's Bight on San Jose. Eleven subadults were scattered over Roddy/Ayres island.

Tides were much higher today after strong southeast winds pushed water into the Texas bays in late March. As a result, no cranes were found in open bay habitat. For the second week in a row, no sandhill cranes were sighted as most have already left Texas. No whooping cranes were located in upland areas or on burns.