Tom and Brian Report: Cranes on the Move
April 18, 2008

As you read Tom's and Brian's reports this week . . .

  1. Where are the 266 cranes of the Western flock now?
  2. What do you think Tom will find on his next flight over Aransas NWR?
  3. What kind of flight lies ahead for the cranes now in Saskatchewan?
  4. When does Brian expect the first arrivals at the Canadian nesting grounds?

Dear Journey North,

You may recall that on my April 10 flight I found a total of 34 Whooping Cranes during the 3-hour flight. What's happened since?

I just talked with Tour Boat Captain Tommy Moore at Aransas. He reports on his last trip seeing only 4 Whooping Cranes. This is down from the 12 whooping cranes that were in those same areas of Aransas when I did a complete census on April 10th. Tommy Moore's report is strong evidence that additional Whooping Cranes have started the migration and have headed north. Spring-like conditions have finally arrived in Nebraska and the Dakotas, so I fully expect whooping crane reports to start coming in from Canada in this next week. The cranes are on the move! The next census flight is scheduled for April 22. How many cranes do you think I'll find then?

Tom Stehn
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge


Dear Journey North,

I just came back from watching 3 whoopers feeding in a stubble field," came the exciting news from Brian Johns on April 16. "We saw the birds 47 km northeast of the Canadian Wildlife Service office in Saskatoon. The birds were first seen in the area yesterday afternoon.

Usually when 3 birds are together in spring migration it is a family group; however, this group appeared to be a pair plus a subadult bird over 1 year of age. I could not see any dark feathers on the third bird. It looked just like the other 2 adults.

With birds being in south-central Saskatchewan on April 15, I suspect that the first birds to arrive in Wood Buffalo National Park will be there early next week! They now must cross the boreal forested areas of northern Saskatchewan and Alberta before settling back onto their summer home in the northeastern corner of Wood Buffalo National Park. The park is just west of the town of Fort Smith, Northwest Territories.

I was pretty excited to see the cranes again. It has been five months. I'll bring you the news from this end of the migration!

Brian Johns
Wildlife Biologist
Canadian Wildlife Service
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada