Whoopers on their way to Wood Buffalo

Tom Stehn, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge reports that, “The eighth aerial census of the 2010-11 whooping crane season was conducted April 13, 2011 in a Cessna 210 piloted by Gary Ritchey of Air Transit Solutions, Castroville, Texas with USFWS observers Brad Strobel, Matt Butler, and Bill Ostrand. Search conditions were good, and all portions of the crane range were covered in the 5.9-hour flight.”

Sighted on the flight were 7 adults and 3 juveniles = 10 total whooping cranes.

Adults + Young

San Jose – 2 + 1 = 3

Refuge – 3 + 0 = 3

Lamar – none

Matagorda – 2 + 2 = 4

Welder Flats – None

Total – 7 + 3 = 10

With only 10 whooping cranes remaining at Aransas and an estimated 269 in migration (flock size 279),

96.4% of the flock has left Aransas. Present at Aransas were two family groups (including a twin family) and 3 presumed subadults. This will be the last flight of the spring unless one additional flight is made in May to see if the 10 have departed. Tom Stehn report concludes by saying, “thanks go to Brad Strobel who has taken over the census flights as I wind down towards retirement sometime later this year.”

Now that the whooping cranes are mostly migrating from Aransas NWR, Texas, observers from various locations are filing reports of birds they spot. Jeanine Lackey,Fish and Wildlife Biologist,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,Grand Island, Nebraska is compiling records of the sightings. Biologist Lackey has distributed the most recent whooping crane migration data that has been transmitted to the Grand Island Field Office.

There have been 37 confirmed sighting of whooping cranes along the migration corridor. In addition to these confirmed sightings the Grand Island office has received 15 unconfirmed and 3 probable reports.

During a census flight conducted at Aransas on April 13th, 10 whooping cranes were still present on the refuge. Therefore, 269 birds are currently in migration.

Whooping cranes are still confirmed on the ground in Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. A report just came in from Saskatchewan of a possible sighting but this has not been confirmed. The recent weather developments including 55 mph winds out of the NNW, snow, (a.k.a. blizzard) and rain have basically stopped cranes in their tracks.

And now for some recent news about Tom Stehn, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, long time whooping crane coordinator. Tom has announced his retirement “sometimes later this year”. The Whooping Crane Conservation Association has always enjoyed an excellent working relationship with Tom and his retirement presents a mixed feeling for us. Tom has always kept us informed by sending census reports, annual reports, special interesting stories and participating in our annual meetings. We could always count on Tom when we needed special information. So, for all these, and other reasons, we are disappointed to see Tom retire. But then, on the other hand, Tom has served the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many others exceptionally well and he deserves to retire and spend time doing what he wants to do. So, Tom, whenever “sometimes later this years” arrives, we wish you a happy retirement and we sincerely thank you for all you have done for whooping cranes and those of us who love them.