Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Coordinator,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that the whooping cranes have initiated their southward migration from Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada. Whooping cranes are currently spread all the way from the nesting grounds to the wintering grounds. The first two whooping cranes have arrived at Aransas in Texas, with a pair sighted October 21st by Dr. Felipe Chavez-Ramirez and Walter Wehtje of The Crane Trust who are currently at Aransas. Crane Trust data from the 10 radioed cranes have them in NorthDakota or Canada (including some still in Wood Buffalo National Park), except for one subadult bird that is in Oklahoma.
Retired CWS biologist Brian Johns spotted 63 whooping cranes at 3 different locations in Saskatchewan on October 21st, so that tells you where the majority of the flock is located. With so many cranes still in Canada, and the first 2 cranes spotted at Aransas five days past the average first arrival date of October 16th, the migration appears to be about one week later than average this year. I will start census flights at Aransas in early November.
Observational data compiled by Jeanine Lackey of the Cooperative Whooping Crane Tracking Project in Grand Island, Nebraska has numerous reports coming from North Dakota with nothing from other Flyway States (SD, NE, KS) except the radioed crane in Oklahoma and one white-plumaged bird in eastern Colorado outside of the usual migration corridor that was apparently influenced by sandhill cranes.
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