Whooping Cranes stopover habitats facing more threats

by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers

Whooping Cranes “stopover habitats” are facing more threats on Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, in Kansas. The refuge is experiencing conflicts with neighboring farmers who want to use more water from a diminishing supply.

Stopover habitats are used during the Whoopers two annual 2,500 mile migrations between Wood Buffalo, Canada nesting grounds and Aransas Refuge, Texas winter habitats. Quivira is one of the more important stopover areas along the migration corridor. Other stopover areas are also facing problems due to changing farming practices and developments of all kinds.

Unfortunately irrigation needs on private farms is problematic to Quivira Refuge. Quivira covers 22,135 acres, largely in Stafford County. About 6,000 acres is wetlands.

Whooping Cranes on Qvivira NWR
Whooping Cranes on Qvivira NWR. USFWS Photo

Wetlands a haven for whooping cranes and other migratory birds

Thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl migrating through Quivira each season count on reprieve and water at the salt marshes. Mike Oldham, Quivira’s manager estimates a million birds come through the area in the fall and winter including 61 endangered whooping cranes that stopped over there last fall. Quivira officials want to make sure it remains like that.

“Having the available wetlands is a haven to migratory birds, and timing is everything,” said Mike Oldham. “Water depth is a big deal, too – especially in the spring for shorebirds with short legs that need shallower water.” Oldham added.

Regrettably a decades-long struggle continues between providing enough water for the national wildlife refuge and the needs of private land irrigators who surround it.

After years of attempting to work with stakeholders to find solutions, the service in April 2013 filed impairment with the Kansas Department of Agriculture. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s 1957 water right is senior to roughly 95 percent of the basin’s water users. Quivira’s manager Oldham claims, “We’re not receiving the water based on the seasonal needs of wildlife and habitat.” If there is not ample water thousands of migratory birds could be adversely affected including endangered Whooping Cranes

Stopover habitats are essential to Whooping Cranes

Friends of the Wild Whoopers and Gulf Cost Bird Observatory (FOTWW – GCBO) are continuing efforts to identify these threats and help resolve them. Stopover habitats are essential to Whooping Cranes so they can rest and feed during their two annual 2,500 mile migrations. The FOTWW-GCBO team contends that it is imperative that we provide more help to the only wild Whooping Cranes population remaining on earth.

Our FOTWW – GCBO team has recently been focusing efforts on identifying potential “stopover habitats” on military bases within the 2,500 migration corridor. To-date most military base natural managers that we have met with have been very cooperative and a number of important Whooping Crane habitats are slated for improvements. To read more about our stopover habitat project, click here.

Whooping Crane
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***** 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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Whooping Crane vocalization/interaction

Kevin Sims sent Friends of the Wild Whoopers, (FOTWW) the following video that he recorded recently at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. FOTWW thinks this video is a good example of‪ ‎Whooping Crane interaction and vocalization. While watching the video, take note of the different vocalizations/calls at different times in the video. Also, note how the adult Whoopers are alert and act when another adult begins closing in on the colt. We enjoyed the video and hope you do too.

Whooping Crane Calls

The Whooping Crane has a number of vocalizations that we believe we understand. Some of their calls are soft and made for nearby communication. Other calls are loud and can be heard for a mile or more.

They make an Alert Guard Call”, apparently to warn their partner about any potential danger *. A crane pair will jointly call rhythmically a Unison Callafter waking in the early morning, after courtship or when defending their territory.

Unison calls are made by both the male and female pair-bonded cranes as they call in unison with each other. Unison calls are often made during elaborate courtship dance rituals of crane pairs in spring. These loud calls are also used by crane pairs to help defends their territory. When defending territory unison calls means “Keep out, this piece of wetland property is ours”.

When their territory is about to be invaded or some danger is threatening, Whooping Cranes make a comparatively soft “Defense Call”. When preparing to take flight the cranes will make a Preflightcall.

The adult crane’s “Brood Call” or Contact Call is used to let chicks and know “It’s safe. Follow me.”

* Recorded by Arthur A. Allen, Courtesy of Macaulay Library,© Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Whooping Crane
friendsofthewildwhoopers.org

***** 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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Happy New Year from FOTWW

In a few hours, we will celebrate the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. Friends of the Wild Whoopers, (FOTWW) hopes that you have a safe, healthy, and Happy New Year. May 2016 be filled with the promises of a brighter tomorrow.

Thank you!

FOTWW thanks everyone for 2015 and we hope that you have a Happy New Year!

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” ― Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Happy New Year
Whooping crane at Wood Buffalo National Park. Photo by Klaus Nigge Photography

 

 

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friendsofthewildwhoopers.org

***** 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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Friends of Lydia Ann Channel sues over Channel project

By:  Friends of the Wild Whoopers

Friends of Lydia Ann Channel (“FLAC”), a non-profit conservation group in Texas has filed a federal lawsuit against several officials of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“USACE) for violations of several federal laws including the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).

FLAC’s legal Complaint claims that USACE’s rushed authorization of the construction and operation of this mile and a half long industrial barge facility within the Lydia Ann Channel. Barges using the channel will be accommodating hazardous materials in the middle of one of the most ecologically and recreationally significant waterways along the Texas gulf coast. The barge facility may threaten known endangered species habitat, interfere with and displaces public recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, hunting, boating, and birding, and constitutes a threat to both navigation and to public health and safety.

Lydia Ann Channel
Barges on Gulf Intracoastal Waterway

The Lydia Ann Channel and the affected shoreline of San Jose Island are located within Redfish Bay State Scientific Area, directly adjacent to the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve. These two areas are home to or immediately adjacent to known habitat for at least eight federally-listed endangered species: whooping crane, piping plover, rufa red knot, Atlantic hawksbill sea turtle, green sea turtle, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, leatherback sea turtle and loggerhead sea turtle.

FLAC’s legal Complaint

According to FLAC’s legal Complaint, USACE’s authorization of this facility, and the resulting activities and work associated with its operation are substantial and pose a direct threat of harm, injury and death to individual whooping cranes and other endangered species in direct violation of Section 9 of the ESA.

The Lydia Ann Channel and San Jose Island have been used by the public for decades for recreational purposes, including fishing, hunting, swimming, boating, crabbing and wildlife photography and observation.

Whooping Crane Flock affected

The Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane flock is the only natural wild flock of whooping cranes remaining in the world. The current population of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock is currently estimated to be only 310 individuals. This flock winters in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and nearby areas in Aransas County, Texas, including San Jose Island, which is immediately adjacent to the barge facility and the petrochemicals and hazardous materials stored there. Whooping cranes have been documented in the vicinity of San Jose Island for the last five years.

The Complaint claims that USACE was clearly put on notice by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that there were federally listed sea turtles in the proposed project area. In addition, even the most basic review of available scientific information would have made it obvious to the USACE that other federally-listed species, specifically whooping cranes, piping plover, and rufa red knot were also in the action area of the proposed project.

FLAC is asking the Federal Court to declare the construction and operation of LAC Moorings’ barge facility unlawful and set aside the action that USACE in authorizing. A map of the project can be found by clicking here.

FOTWW voices their concern

Friends of the Wild Whoopers, a conservation group, commented that: “It seems that a “guerilla war” has been declared on the natural resources of the Texas coast. The Lydia Ann Channel project is just one of several projects and/or government regulatory decisions made during the past several years that are seriously damaging to the natural environment. Such continual chipping away at coastal resources will eventually upset the natural balance so long enjoyed by millions of citizens.

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friendsofthewildwhoopers.org

***** 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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