Wintering Whooping Crane Update, April 7, 2017


Wintering Whooping Crane Update
Wade Harrell, – U.S. Whooping Crane Recovery Coordinator

Whooping crane spring migration is in full swing. It has been another tremendous winter season here at Aransas NWR, but the whooping cranes are ready to get back up to Wood Buffalo National Park for another breeding season.

Whooping Crane Update

Whooping crane family flying over Aransas NWR. Photo by Chuck Hardin

As of yesterday, of 7 birds that have active satellite transmitters, 5 have departed Aransas NWR. Quivira NWR (Kansas) and surrounding areas seem to be a hotspot for stopovers this spring, with a group of 14 whooping cranes reported last week and a group of 8 reported this week as well as sightings of smaller groups. There have also been a number of whooping cranes reported in the Platte River in Nebraska and a number that have already made it to the Dakotas. Here in Texas, 2 marked whoopers were spotted on Ft. Hood Army Base this past week. The number of whooping cranes at Aransas will quickly dwindle over the next couple weeks. Spring migration is typically shorter in duration than fall migration, usually only taking about 30 days.

As soon as results from the Annual Whooping Crane Winter Abundance Survey are complete, we will post a summary on the Aransas NWR website.

Whooping Cranes on the Refuge

Whooping crane update

Whooping Cranes over Aransas NWR at sunset. Photo by Kevin Sims

Cranes have recently been seen from the observation tower on the Refuge, but it’s difficult to say how much longer they will remain. But there are many other interesting wildlife species to view at the Refuge now, including many spring migrating songbirds, so don’t hesitate to come out and enjoy other spring wildlife watching opportunities.

Texas Whooper Watch

Please report any whooping cranes you observe in migration in Texas to Texas Whooper Watch. We’ve had a number of people making use of the new Texas Whooper Watch I-Naturalist phone app as well, which is encouraging. The old saying “a photo is worth a thousand words” applies to reporting whooping cranes as well. Just be careful not to disturb or get too close the birds!

Habitat Management on the Refuge

Refuge staff burned 4 Units this winter, totaling 4,871 acres. This year’s winter season was challenging given that our cold weather windows with consistent north winds were limited and the latter part of the winter brought significant rains.

Precipitation/Salinity

The Refuge received 6.16” of rain from January-March 2017. Freshwater levels and food resources remained high throughout most of this winter season.  Salinity levels in San Antonio Bay stayed in the low teens (ppt) most of the winter, but recent rains in the middle portion of the Guadalupe river watershed have dropped salinities significantly this last week. Let’s hope we stay in a wet cycle for a bit longer.

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

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River authority and advocacy group sign new agreement

By Sara Sneath – Victory Advocate

The Aransas Project

Whooping Cranes at Aransas NWR. Photo by Kevin Sims

The Aransas Project and Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority have recommitted to working together to find ways to balance the water needs of an ever-growing population and threatened wildlife.

The two groups, which have historically fought in court over differing visions of water needs, first signed an agreement to work together in February.

But the river authority’s longtime general manager, Bill West, retired in late September. The new agreement was signed Monday by West’s successor, Kevin Patteson.

“The signing of the agreement is just another way to reaffirm our commitment to conducting the appropriate studies related to the Guadalupe River watershed,” Patteson said. “And to meeting our mutually agreed-upon goals.”

The agreement is not legally binding, but Jim Blackburn, The Aransas Project’s former attorney and current board member, said the good faith agreement is innovative in its approach to water management in the state.

The six-page document outlines the need for more research into habitat needs for endangered whooping cranes, freshwater mussels and other wildlife in the Guadalupe Delta. The document also addresses the need for a dollar value to be placed on water in the state.

This value would include the true cost of taking water that would otherwise flow into the bay, supporting estuaries, as well as commercial and recreational fishing.

The groups plan to meet early next year to seek funding and further devise their strategy, Blackburn said.

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

 friendsofthewildwhoopers.org

friendsofthewildwhoopers.org

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