We did a census flight over the refuge on April 10th.
was a little bit larger and more powerful than the planes
flown in for years. At times, we were going 140 knots (161 miles
hour). At that speed, any turns we made felt like being on
coaster. Most of the time while searching for cranes, our speed
was around 105 knots (121 miles per hour). When I left the airport
to drive home, I accelerated onto the highway and caught myself
speeding at 80 mph. It felt slow to me after going faster
all afternoon in the airplane! I quickly got back down to the speed
limit of 55 mph.
The crane migration is well underway with Whooping Cranes currently
spread out from Texas to North Dakota. I found 72 Whooping Cranes
still at Aransas, exactly 30% of the wintering flock. That means
70% of the whooping cranes have started the migration. *See
below for update.
My most surprising discovery came when we were flying over 2 cranes
on San Jose Island. I asked the pilot to circle back so I could
take a second look. When we did so, I noticed both of the cranes
had some brown feathers on the tail, head and neck. This told
me the two were juveniles. No other cranes were around. Since
juveniles always are with their parents throughout the winter,
this meant the parents had started the migration and left their
youngsters behind! I can just imagine the meaning of the whooping
sounds of the adult cranes as they were
on junior. Its time to migrate." The youngsters were
probably asking, "Where are you going? Why don't we stay
here and eat a few more tasty fiddler crabs?"
do you think the adults are more anxious
and more prepared to start the migration
than the juveniles are? (The answer has
do with what the adults intend to do when they reach Canada.)
ideas in your journal.
Leaving Mom and Pop
The separation of the juvenile Whooping Crane happens
occasionally at Aransas. The juveniles will be fine
and will migrate on their
own all the way back north to the nesting grounds in Canada. It
can also happen at any point during the migration. But just as
we saw with The First Family migrating from Florida to Wisconsin,
the two adults with their juvenile usually make it all the way
back to the nesting grounds before the juvenile quickly goes off
on its own.
Whooping Crane Coordinator
days after my
count, a Whooping Crane tour
boat captain (and his excited passengers) saw another 15 cranes
leave. They headed north at 10 AM with perfect migration conditions:
winds SE at 10, skies clear, temperature in the upper 70's.