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Whooping Cranes Reach the Texas Gulf Coast
November 3, 1997
"I counted the first 23 total Whoopers on Halloween (22 adult + 1 chick). A low pressure system is reaching Texas tomorrow (11/1/97) and should bring more cranes. In about a week, and one more subsequent front, should be about 100 birds here." Sure enough, on Tom's count today 57 cranes had already arrived. The first arrived this year on October 21, one week later than in past years. The rest are still scattered throughout the mid-western United States and Saskatchewan in Canada.
Baby Whoopers Add to the Population
Tom is hoping a total of up to 180 Cranes will come to Aransas this year. That's up from 160 Cranes that spent the winter at Aransas last year. 32 new, baby Whoopers were hatched and survived through mid-summer this year in their Canadian breeding grounds. If 32 new Cranes were born into the population of 160 Whoopers, why won't all 192 show up at Aransas and the surrounding areas this fall?
Each year a certain number of Whooping Cranes do not survive the entire migration. Some years, as many as a dozen adult cranes that leave Aransas in the spring fail to survive to return in the fall. Migration is hard work and some of the Cranes simply will not be able to withstand the harsh conditions. For example, Tom worries that the severe blizzard which hit Nebraska and Kansas last week may have harmed some of the younger Whoopers.
Tom generally waits until the end of December, when all of the Whooping Cranes have arrived in the Aransas area, to complete his head count of who has arrived and who hasn't. Can you predict how many Whoopers you think will make it? Watch for Tom's weekly updates of the number of Whoopers moving into the Aransas area. Meanwhile, here's Tom's personal account of his own recent migration.
Teaching Cranes to Migrate
"I just got back from the time of my life, traveling as a member of the ground crew along with Kent Clegg and his Ultralight aircraft," reports Mr. Stehn. "Kent and the Ultralight escorted 4 Whooping Cranes and 8 Sandhill Cranes all the way from Grace, Idaho to Bosque de la Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, New Mexico! This was just like in the movie 'Fly Away Home'. The only difference was that instead of flying with Canada Geese, Ultralight pilot Kent Clegg was flying with Cranes!"
"I traveled with the Cranes for the entire 9 day Ultralight mission as part of a six-man ground crew. I
watched Kent play the part of the Crane chick's father. The young chicks learned his voice and followed him wherever
he went. Kent would normally fly with the birds for about 2 hours early in the morning, and then let the birds
rest for half a day. Often, a shorter, one-hour flight was made just before sunset."
So, he wanted to see if Whoopers could indeed be taught to migrate to areas besides Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, their traditional winteringing grounds. Similar to building the population of Trumpeter Swans, establishing new populations of Whoopers could be a way to increase the their overall population.
P.S. From Tom Stehn
The Next Journey South Update Will be Posted on November 6, 1997.