Wild Weather Helps Wild Cranes' Migration
Janine Lackey, USFWS

October 27, 2010: Nine whooping cranes were reported mid-morning in spiral flight NE of Wichita Falls. They might have spent the night on the Red River located 4 miles to the north of the sighting. Good migration conditions were present in north Texas. In checking the national map (below), I found one weak low pressure system over central Texas that is expected to reach Aransas tomorrow. An incredibly strong low pressure system just north of Minnesota has been bringing violent weather to the northern and northeastern U.S., with record strong winds and tornados. Meteorologists have called this a weather “bomb,” damaging buildings, knocking out power, wrecking tied-down small aircraft, and even flipping over tractor trailer rigs. Conditions in the PM on 10-27-10 in Bismarck, ND had winds from the NW at 30 mph gusting to 46 mph. That will get the cranes moving!

Surface winds recorded from North to South as of 3:30 PM on Oct. 28, 2010 were as follows:
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan 27 degrees, winds 16 mph from the NW
Regina, Saskatchewan snow, winds 28 from the NNW
Bismarck ND 30-46 mph from the NNW with light snow
Pierre, SD 19-42 mph from the NW with snow
Valentine, NE 28-39 mph from the NW
North Platte, NE 34-46 mph from the NW
Grand Island, NE 11-23 from the SSE
Kearney, NE 28-39 mph from the W
Hastings, NE 26-39 mph from the WNW
Stockton, KS 23-37 from the WNW
Hutchinson, KS 20-30 mph from the West
Oklahoma City, OK 10 mph from the WNW
Wichita Falls, TX 7 mph from the N
Victoria, TX 5 mph, variable
Rockport, TX 3 mph, variable

Between Canada and North Texas, only in parts of central and eastern Nebraska would there be some “confused” winds that might be hindering crane migration.

The weaker front in central Texas on Oct. 27 pushed on through to the coast, and would have allowed cranes to reach Aransas on October 28, 2010. What actually happened? Read on!

October 28, 2010: Tom Stehn reports from Aransas NWR in Texas: "The front reached Aransas last night, and I saw two huge flocks of migrating white pelicans being pushed south this morning at sunrise. There was such a strong tailwind (winds currently are from the NNE at 25 mph) that the pelicans were strung out in a line rather than in a more typical "unorganized bunch" formation used in spiral flight. The line formation made it look like they were imitating geese when I first saw them in the distance, but I could tell with my binoculars that the size of each individual bird was way too large to be a goose."