Dear Journey North,
The whooping crane migration is underway with an estimated 61 cranes
having departed the wintering grounds. This amounts to 28% of the
flock. The cranes travel in small groups, often in groups of
5 or less.
Single cranes sometimes even make the migration by themselves.
Can you think of advantages for having the cranes migrate at
times and not in large groups?
The migration is right on schedule. I expect a majority of the remaining
cranes to start the migration in the next 10 days. Weather forecasts
look favorable on April 9 and 10 for migration. With west winds blowing
April 6 and 7, the cranes will stay put until the winds switch around
to the southeast and provide tailwinds to aid the cranes' trip north.
Below is my flight report from my 7-hour census flight on April 6.
(It takes that long to cover the 35-mile stretch of coastal Texas
marsh that the whooping cranes occupy during winter!)
An aerial census on 06 April, 2005 of the Aransas National Wildlife
Refuge and surrounding areas estimated the number of whooping cranes
present at Aransas at 128 adults + 26 young = 154 total. The current
estimated size of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population is 182 + 33 = 215.
Recap of cranes observed on the flight: (154)
adults + young
Refuge 34 + 8
Lamar 3 + 1
San Jose 34 + 9
Matagorda 42 + 7
Welder Flats 15 + 1
Total 128 + 26 = 154
viewing conditions were present throughout the day with a complete
census flown. With winds from the west, no cranes are expected to start
migration April 6 or 7.
•An estimated 61 whooping cranes (54 adults and 7 young) have
migration since the last flight on March 23.
cranes were observed by a tour boat high over the refuge leaving
in migration on April 3.
•Conditions were excellent for initiating migration on April
3-5. A few cranes also may have started migration on March
29 with favorable conditions present.
•The chick that wintered 75 miles north of Aransas was last
reported in Texas on March 18. It was confirmed present
on March 28th on the Platte River just east of Grand Island, Nebraska.
Although this juvenile did not start the migration with sandhills,
it had caught up to them on the Platte. After a stay of six days
on the Platte, it was observed heading north on April 2. Six adult
cranes were confirmed present in the
Rainwater Basin, Nebraska on April 5-6.
•On today’s flight, tides were low and most cranes were in
ponds or open water areas. Five cranes were in open bay habitat, all
at Welder Flats. No cranes were sighted on prescribed burns or uplands.
One subadult crane was located south of Holiday Beach.
No cranes were found north of the former Bomber Base on the north end
of Matagorda Island where a duo had been present on March 23.
Whooping Crane Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
2005 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.
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