Four adult whooping cranes made an early surprise arrival on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge last week. Normally, the whoopers do not begin arriving on the refuge until October. Wade Harrell, U.S. Whooping Crane Coordinator wrote Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW): “As you noted on the FOTWW page, we did confirm the presence of 4 adult whooping cranes on Aransas NWR yesterday afternoon. Same general location that was noted by the fishing guide, so it is likely the same individuals.”
The first report about the whooper’s arrival was made by a local fishing guide. The guide had observed the birds at Sundown Bay in Aransas Refuge on (September 11 ).
When the whoopers arrival was first disclosed last week, local birders and Aransas personnel were skeptical. Some believed the birds may have been Wood Storks or Sandhill cranes. Both of these birds are often mistaken for whooping cranes. They are similar in size and appearance, especially at a distance. Others wondered if the birds had traveled from the experimental Louisiana “non-migratory” flock. There were numerous questions by serious birders.
Pam Bates, FOTWW Vice President keeps in touch with “whooper watchers” all along the 2,500 mile flyway from Fort Smith, Canada to Aransas, Texas. None of Pam’s contacts had reported seeing whoopers since the northward spring migration. Bates advised, “We haven’t heard of any being sighted along the flyway or in Saskatchewan staging areas. I haven’t heard of any sightings from Regina or Saskatoon.” So, the early arrival caught everyone by surprise.
The USFWS Southwest Region Facebook page advised “Whooping Cranes have arrived at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast. Four adults, the first arrivals this wintering season, were spotted by a local fishing guide and confirmed by refuge staff.”
During the past several days, birders have kept busy on social media attempting to determine the truth about the 4 whooping cranes. They succeeded. Now the birders can get some rest after their relentless pursuit of the facts.
by Chester McConnell Friends of the Wild Whoopers
***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population of
wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****