The following report is forwarded with permission from Tom Stehn, USFWS biologist and National Whooping Crane Coordinator.
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.
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 home pages at http://www.electrotex.com/aoc/. (Please link to the Texas Whooping Crane pages through the AOC main home page, as the URLs for the special site pages may change over time as updates and reviews occur.)
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An aerial census of the Aransas NWR and surrounding areas made
February 03, 2000 revealed the presence of somewhere between a
record 185 and 191 whooping cranes.
Recap of cranes observed: (176)
Refuge Lamar San Jose Matagorda Welder Other Total
102+10a 2+1 20+0 23+1 15+2 62+14=176
a The total of 112 surpasses by nine the all-time high.
Remarks: Visibility was excellent, with high clouds present only
over Welder Flats. A total of 176 whooping cranes were located,
including 14 chicks. The number of cranes at Welder Flats on the
previous two flights had been 24+2=26. Today, only 15+2=17 cranes
were located at Welder. The 9 cranes at Welder could have moved to
the refuge, although it seems likely the subadults had moved inland
and were not counted on the census. In addition, two crane were
recently reported near McFaddin, Texas (northwest of Tivoli). one
crane just south of Austwell, and 1 crane in west Texas south of
Lubbock. The only crane that can be added to the census total with
very high certainty is the crane in west Texas, but todays' census
indicated possibly as many as 189 in the population.
Highlights of the census were the record 112 on the refuge,
surpassing by nine last week's record high of 103. The N.
Cottonwood family from Matagorda Island had left their territory
and was identified on the refuge. The South Matagorda family
continued to stay on the refuge. A banded crane identified for the
first time this winter was nil-low silver (Twin Lakes). I
apparently made a mistake concluding last week that Pair 35/99 with
banded female YbY-GwG (1987) had lost their chick. The
color-banded pair I believed I actually saw was YbY-y/g (Boat Ramp
New). The yellow band is not visible. The green band has a worn
top which appears whitish and was misread as GwG. Thus, NO
mortality has been known to occur this winter. However, it is
puzzling that two families containing banded birds GwG-YbY and
YbY-GwG have not been seen since December 13. If they are in
amongst the large groups on the refuge burns, it is likely they
have lost their chicks since I have concentrated on identifying as
many families as possible on census flights. Also, pair R-YbY has
apparently left their San Jose territory and has not been located
since December 14. Pairs identified on todays flight that had
returned to their territory were G-GwG (Long Reef) and the unbanded
Barge Canal pair at Welder Flats. For the first time this winter,
two cranes were seen on Dewberry Island close to Port O'Connor.
Cranes are continuing to leave their Matagorda and San Jose
territories to utilize refuge prescribed burns. An unbelievably
large group of cranes (31+2=33) were located on the North Pipeline
Flats territory adjacent to Burn Unit 41E. At one point, one of
the North Pipeline Flats territorial adults tried to chase a
subgroup of 11 birds. A grouping of 1+1 was possibly discerned in
the larger group which would be the widowed female with chick
reported in the fall migration that has been wintering on the
On the flight, 45 cranes were found on prescribed burns, 31 in open
water (bays or lakes). No cranes were found at freshwater since
soaking rains had fallen the previous two days. Two separate
cranes were observed eating large dead fish, and one crane was
holding what looked like an an eel.
- Tom Stehn
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Corpus Christi, Texas