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October 25, 2012

Whooping Crane Update 

Whooping Cranes:
-On October 23 the refuge biologist and manager saw one adult whooping crane feeding in the marshes on the Blackjack peninsula. The bird ate at least two prey items during the 3-5 minutes it was observed.
-One GPS marked whooping crane arrived on the Texas coast on October 18 and has been using the marsh habitat extensively.
-All other GPS marked whooping cranes are north of South Dakota awaiting favorable migration conditions. Biologists expect the cranes will take advantage of the strong north winds associated with seasonal cold fronts.

Salinity Levels: The bay waters are fresher than they were at this time last fall and winter. The salinity levels in San Antonio Bay was recorded as 23.9 parts per thousand.

Drought Conditions: To date, the refuge has received 25.6 inches of rain, which is a foot more than we had last winter at this time. The area is still unusually dry but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts south Texas will see a wetter than average winter and spring in 2013.

Food Abundance: Wolfberry conditions in the marsh appear to be much better than this time last year. While conducting field work during the last few weeks, refuge biologists have noticed many flowering and budding wolfberry plants. Peak berry abundance typically occurs in November and December and the plants seem to be on schedule.

Inventory & Monitoring: Refuge staff began using traps to survey blue crabs in the marshes on the Blackjack peninsula this September. Blue crabs appear to be abundant in the marsh with many traps capturing more than 10 crabs per night.

Freshwater Availability: To make certain freshwater is available to the whooping cranes when they arrive, refuge staff have been working on water well sites previously used by cranes on the Blackjack peninsula to ensure they are in good working condition.

Citizen Science: Texas Parks and Wildlife launched its Texas Whooper Watch Program. This is an opportunity for the public to report sightings of whooping cranes in Texas. This is very helpful in the collection of information regarding the birds’ migration and distribution. Please see the link above to learn more.
Last Updated: Nov 13, 2012
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