Whooping cranes return to Coastal Bend

Whooping Cranes

This family of whooping cranes was at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge last winter. Notice the cinnamon plumage on the juvenile walking behind its parents.(Photo: David Sikes)

After a record hatch at Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada, an estimated 431 endangered whooping cranes are making their way into the marshes of and around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Canada wildlife officials earlier reported 98 nests within Wood Buffalo National Park, which produced 63 fledglings. The old fledgling record set in 2006 was 49. Lush wetlands in Canada helped produce this record hatch, according to Chester A. McConnell, president of Friends of the Wild Whoopers. Salinity and marsh conditions at the Aransas refuge are favorable again this year.

The population’s health and continued growth relies on good habitat at their nesting site, in their wintering grounds, and everywhere in between, according to McConnell, who has been negotiating with military officials to enhance wetlands along the crane’s migratory route. And he’s garnered much cooperation.

Marsh conditions appear to be healthy, despite enduring a thrashing from Hurricane Harvey. The last time heavy rainfall inundated the birds’ wintering habitat the explosions of crabs and shrimp created a boon for whoopers and other wildlife.

To read David Sikes’ of The Corpus Christi Caller-Times article “Record number of whooping cranes expected to spend winter in the Coastal Bend”, click here.

 

***** 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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Hurricane Harvey and Whooping Cranes

Friends of the Wild Whoopers, (FOTWW) has had several inquiries about what effects Hurricane Harvey may have had to the wild whooping cranes’ wintering habitat on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

The whooping cranes of the wild flock and their new fledglings are still in Canada on their nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park. Mike Keizer, Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada told FOTWW, “Hope all goes well in Texas. Glad the Whooping Cranes are still here.”

They won’t start their fall migration until the later part of next month and the first whoopers may arrive at Aransas for the winter right after the middle of October, with the remaining whoopers following until the middle of December, which is after the hurricane season.

What salt water from the storm surge that has gotten into the brackish bays will normally be flushed out with fresh flood water flowing in from upstream. Also with the predicted rainfall of 1 to 3 feet, the system should restore itself soon. It is too early to determine if there was any habitat loss and the priority now it to keep the area’s citizens safe, out of harm’s way and back into their homes and/or rebuilding.

Whatever the damage, if any, to the wild flock’s habitat, the flock will endure and survive as it has done over the years.

FOTWW and everyone is concerned about the refuge and surrounding area and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those citizens affected by Hurricane Harvey. We hope that there is no loss of life and little to no damage to property and habitat.

FOTWW will keep everyone updated as we get information.

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