Journey North Kids,
early whooping crane migrating now with sandhill cranes.
At least one whooping crane
has started the migration! It was
confirmed on March 1 in a flock of about 10,000 sandhill cranes
near Pampa, (north of Abilene) in the Texas Panhandle. This crane
Aransas, but instead chose to stay with sandhill cranes in
Yes, that whooper is starting the migration
early, but it is timing its journey to match that of sandhill cranes.
the migration about a month ahead of whooping cranes. This is
because the sandhills get up to the Platte River in Nebraska and
stage, or gather
by the hundreds of thousands. They feed, fatten up,
and search for mates. You can see
and hear this spectacle of migration on the crane cam
at Rowe Sanctuary on the Platte River near Kearny, Nebraska.
Whooping cranes do not have a staging period in
their spring migration. They don't need to stage since they already
have mates and (we hope) are already
eating blue crabs all winter.
When Will the Whoopers Leave?
One year I suspected the Lobstick pair (you met them in the slideshow
last week) started the migration from Aransas about March 3.
That's the earliest
I have. Many whooping cranes at Aransas wait until at least
March 25th before they migrate, and most wait until
week in April. However, the handful of whooping cranes that
wintered with sandhill cranes away from Aransas have all started
migration early and may actually reach the Platte River in
Nebraska before the first whooping crane has left Aransas.
Latest Aerial Count at Aransas: Two Losses
March 1 I flew this winter's sixth aerial census over Aransas.
Observations confirmed the loss of two additional whooping cranes,
in 2010-11 has totaled 4 cranes (3 adults and 1 juvenile). That
brings the current estimated flock size to 279. (The
peak size of the Aransas flock this winter was 283.)
I have no idea on the cause of death for any of the
4 losses this winter. Its always frustrating, since we rarely
ever find a carcass. But I take consolation that I'm one of the
people that could even detect the mortality, so their deaths did
not go unnoticed.
Someone Else's Turn
I'm really hoping
that March 1st was my last census flight. It's time to step aside
and let the "youngsters" get experienced. I've done 29
aerial observations, 544 flights, and 3,448 hours in the air. So
rest of the spring, I hope Brad Strobel will be in the front observer's
seat, and I'll stay on the ground!
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge