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 14 March, 2007 by Pilot Jim Bredy and observers Patrick Walther and Tom Stehn. Observations of cranes were recorded during the scheduled monthly waterfowl survey. My thanks go to Jim and Patrick for their willingness to help out the whooping crane recovery program.
All of the crane range on Matagorda Island was covered, with just a few observations made in other parts of the crane range. Visibility was somewhat limited by overcast skies and haze. Areas covered in about 3 ½ hours of flight time were all of Matagorda Island, with only a single transect made over Aransas, San Jose Island, and Welder Flats.
The census found 64 adults and 11 chicks = 75 total. The total flock size remains estimated at 237. The highlight of the flight was finding the North Cottonwood family group that had apparently been exposed to oiled water during the fall migration and had gotten stained. I had been unable to find them on my last two flights. I identified the family from a color band seen on the right leg of one of the adults. Although I could not get a look at their bellies, no staining was apparent on the feathers on the upper leg, indicating that the birds have lost some of the staining present last fall.
The priority for this flight was to look for any juvenile mortality that may have occurred and to document use of uplands and prescribed burns. No evidence of crane mortality has been discovered this winter. The Northeast Bray and Inlet families were back on their Matagorda Island territories, families that have wandered some this winter and been difficult to keep track of.
Habitat use included 14 cranes on prescribed burns, 7 cranes on uplands, and no cranes in open bay habitat. Six cranes were on the refuge's C3 burn, and 8 cranes on burns on Matagorda. The upland use and some of the burn use was promoted by heavy rains that fell earlier in the week, flooding many grassland swales in the uplands.
Flights will hopefully be conducted every 7-10 days in April to document the upcoming migration. So far, 3 whooping cranes were observed starting the migration on March 8th from Aransas, and a single whooping crane was confirmed present on March 16th on the Platte River in Nebraska. This single may be the whooping crane now in its third winter that has never been to Aransas and was seen this past winter in January near Bay City, Texas.
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: email@example.com. Other information, including archived copies of these reports, can be found at the Texas Whooping Crane web site at https://ccbirding.com/
Patty Waits Beasley
Corpus Christi, TX