Whooping Crane Whooping Crane
Today's News Fall's Journey SouthReport Your Sightings How to Use Journey North Search Journey North

March 30, 2006

Dear Journey North,

It is still very early in the whooping crane migration. On my March 29 aerial survey, there were only 19 cranes I could not find. With dark, low clouds making difficult viewing conditions, I’m sure I overlooked some cranes. Thus, I estimate about 10 cranes may have started the migration. This is a much more conservative number from last week’s estimate of 20-30. This new, lower estimate makes sense since, so far, the only confirmed sighting I know of in the migration corridor are two whooping cranes that have reached the Platte River in Nebraska. (One is likely the whooping crane that wintered with sandhills in extreme south Texas until around March 3. Because it was with sandhill cranes, it migrated on their earlier schedule.)

The Lobstick Family (minus one adult) at Aransas NWR in 2003
Photo Diane Loyd

Meet The Lobstick Family
On today’s flight, I did extra searching for the Lobstick family group of cranes but they were not located. I think they have headed north because traditionally, the Lobstick cranes are some of the first birds to migrate and traditionally reach Wood Buffalo Park before most other cranes. Their name comes from Lobstick Creek where they nest just outside the boundary of the Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The nesting area is north of Aransas by 2,500 miles, but still south of the Arctic Circle and south of the tundra, the most northerly habitat in North America. Instead, the cranes nest in marshes surrounded by boreal forest.

Big Blue Crab

Tough Conditions for Cranes at Aransas
Conditions are tough for the whooping cranes at Aransas right now, with few blue crabs to eat and high water salinity (the saltiness of water), forcing cranes to fly inland to get fresh water to drink. Marsh salinities were measured between 28 and 38 parts per thousand. This is equivalent to ocean water. Crab counts conducted March 27-28 with more than 4 person-hours of walking through the marsh found only 7 small crabs. This number is very low compared to average crab numbers. It would be equivalent to you having to walk 4 hours to the store and then being allowed to buy only 7 small oatmeal cookies that you would have to share with your parents. The low number of blue crabs in the Aransas marshes is correlated with the extreme drought over the past 4 months in this part of Texas, making harder conditions for crabs to survive. The area finally received decent rains March 28, but we need a lot more rain to help the crane habitat.

Tom Stehn
Whooping Crane Coordinator


Copyright 1997-2006 Journey North. All Rights Reserved.
Please send all questions, comments, and suggestions to
our feedback form

Annenberg Web SiteToday's News Fall's Journey South Report Your Sightings How to Use Journey North Search Journey North Journey North Home Page