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MOBIRDS-L  October 2008, Week 1

MOBIRDS-L October 2008, Week 1

Subject:

Whooping Crane info

From:

Robert Fisher <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Robert Fisher <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 2 Oct 2008 15:52:52 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (1084 lines)

Below is a long report on Whooping Cranes that I copied from the OKbirds
list:

It is very long but very interesting and well worth reading. It outlines
bird numbers [increasing] as well as threats [threats to the flock including
water and land development in Texas, wind farm construction in the migration
corridor, and tar sands waste ponds in Canada ].

A Wilber-Farrell
Stevensville, MT [formerly Cherokee OK]

ps. even though I have moved away from the whooping crane migration
corridor, I will continue to forward the reports I receive.

Forwarded with permission from Tom Stehn, FWS.


WHOOPING CRANE RECOVERY ACTIVITIES

November, 2007 - September, 2008

by Tom Stehn

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 Whooping Crane Coordinator

(361) 286-3559, Ext. 221

[log in to unmask]



HIGHLIGHTS



The Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane flock reached a record population of
266 at Aransas in December, 2007. No mortality was documented during the
2007-08 winter. During the spring 2008 migration, the Cooperative Whooping
Crane Tracking Project documented 39 confirmed sightings of whooping cranes
in the U.S. Central Flyway. An excellent production year in Canada in 2008
totaling 41 fledged chicks from a record 66 nests should equate into a
substantial population increase in the Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock in the
2008-09 winter. However, threats to the flock including water and land
development in Texas, wind farm construction in the migration corridor, and
tar sands waste ponds in Canada all increased in 2008.



The captive flocks had a good production season. Twenty-two chicks are
expected to be reintroduced into the eastern migratory population in the
fall of 2008 bringing that flock to 91 total birds. Two chicks of high
genetic value have been added to the captive flock. Production in 2008
lifted the total population of wild (n=387) and captive (n=152) whooping
cranes to 539.



Production in the wild from reintroduced flocks in 2008 was a disappointing
"zero". In Florida, 5 chicks hatched from a total of 3 first nests and 2
re-nests, but none of the chicks survived past 25 days of age. In
Wisconsin, all 11 nesting pairs abandoned their nests just prior to expected
hatching.



The Whooping Crane Recovery Team met in September, 2008 in Wisconsin. The
team decided that the probability of success was too low for the Florida
non-migratory flock to justify any further releases of captive-reared
juveniles. The Team recommended continuing steps to proceed with
reintroduction of non-migratory whooping cranes into their historic range in
Louisiana if studies can demonstrate that this would not increase the risk
of infectious bursal disease to the Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock. The
Recovery Team also recommended doing field tests with GPS satellite
transmitters on migratory cranes in preparation for radioing birds in the
Aransas-Wood Buffalo population. This project has been proposed by the
Platte River Recovery Implementation Program to focus on whooping crane use
of habitat and causes of mortality in the migration corridor.




ARANSAS - WOOD BUFFALO FLOCK


   Summary of the Spring 2008 Migration in the Central Flyway

          written by Martha Tacha, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS),

          Grand Island, Nebraska



With the help of numerous cooperators up and down the Central Flyway, the
Cooperative Whooping Crane Tracking Project documented 39 confirmed
sightings of whooping cranes in the U.S. Central Flyway during the spring
2008 migration (Table 1). No mortality was documented during the 2008-09
winter, and an estimated record 266 whooping cranes moved north to the
breeding grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada.



The first push of the migration occurred during the last week of March and
first week of April. Whooping cranes were first observed leaving Aransas
National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) on March 25 by Tom Stehn and all but 34 had
left Aransas by April 10. One of the record 266 whooping cranes in the
population remained at Aransas NWR until at least May 15, but was not
re-sighted and presumably migrated sometime thereafter.



The first migrants confirmed north of Aransas were observed in central
Kansas the morning of March 28; three groups totaling 12 cranes were
observed at and southwest of Quivira NWR. Between March 30 and April 2, six
groups totaling 24 cranes were confirmed in south central and central
Nebraska. On April 14, another strong front pushed these and other
migrating whooping cranes north. The initial or final observation of nearly
half of the sightings in the flyway (19, or 49 percent) occurred during the
5 days from April 13 to April 17, inclusive. The last sighting in the U.S.
Central Flyway north of Aransas occurred on May 8, when a single crane left
Medicine Lake NWR in northeastern Montana.



Generally, observed groups of whooping cranes hustled through the migration:
27 groups (69 percent) were observed during a single day only. However, 7
groups were observed for 6 consecutive days or more. One group stopped for
16 days and 2 groups rested for 15 days each (these 3 groups in the
rainwater basins in Nebraska), and stopovers of 12 days (Montana), 8 days
(south central Nebraska), 7 days (southern Nebraska), and 6 days (South
Dakota) were also observed.



The size of migrating groups varied, as expected. Group sizes (followed by
observation frequency) were as follows: 13 cranes (1), 11 cranes (1), 8
cranes (1), 6 cranes (3), 5 cranes (2), 4 cranes (7), 3 cranes (11), 2
cranes (8), and a single crane (5). Juveniles were identified in 10
instances, including one set of twins, but juveniles are easy to overlook in
the spring, particularly when seen at a distance.



Three whooping cranes from the reintroduced eastern migratory population of
whooping cranes (Wisconsin-Florida flock) wandered into North Dakota and
were observed near Woodworth in Stutsman County on June 5 and 6. These
three were next re-sighted in late summer in east central Minnesota.
Another group of four young birds from the reintroduced flock has been
observed for some time in western Minnesota, about 15 miles from the South
Dakota border. All of these young cranes are expected to wander back east
and migrate to Florida in the fall.



The success of the Cooperative Whooping Crane Tracking Project is due to the
efforts of the many volunteers and observers in the field who report
sightings, and the State and Federal key contacts who gather and transmit
the information to the Project Coordinator. The cooperation and diligence
of those associated with the project is truly appreciated.





Table 1. Number and dates of confirmed sightings of whooping cranes in the
U.S. Central Flyway during spring migration (i.e., north of Aransas NWR),
2008.






      State
     Number of Observations
     Earliest Date Observed
     Latest Date Obs

      Texas
     1
     4/1
     4/1

      Oklahoma
     2
     4/6
     4/9

      Kansas
     8
     3/28
     4/11

      Nebraska
     12
     3/30
     5/4

      South Dakota
     8
     4/7
     4/16

      North Dakota
     6
     4/15
     4/18

      Montana
     2
     4/17
     5/8

         Total or Cumulative
     39
     4/1
     5/8















Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada



Aerial surveys, 2008



Three summer surveys of the nesting area were carried out in 2008. In May,
Brian Johns and Kathy St. Laurent of the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS)
located a record 66 nests. In June, the USFWS Partanavia with Pilot Jim
Bredy and Biologists Brian Johns and Tom Stehn (USFWS) documented the
hatching of 64 chicks, including 12 sets of twins. This compared with 65
nests and 84 chicks including 28 sets of twins in 2007. Fifty-two of the 66
nests (79%) produced one or more chicks compared with 86% success in 2007.
Thus, the chick production in 2008 resulted from both high productivity and
a large number of nests. Fourteen nests were unsuccessful. In addition, 6
known adult pairs failed to nest but were sighted present on their
territories. Thus, there were a minimum of 72 breeding pairs in the
population. This number matched the 72 adult pairs identified present at
Aransas during the 2007-08 winter.



Habitat conditions in Wood Buffalo in June were better than expected with
water levels considered to be good. The weather during the June production
surveys was exceptionally warm with no cold, wet weather. The moderate
weather conditions favored the survival of the young chicks early on. One
of the highlights of the June surveys was finding one whooping crane pair
with twin chicks and then spotting two wolves 1.5 km distant from the
cranes. The crane family was re-checked 5 days later and both chicks were
still alive with no sign of the wolves.

Surveys carried out in August by CWS located 41 chicks. This total included
2 sets of twins, down from the 12 sets that had been present in June. This
high level of production is expected to raise the size of the Aransas-Wood
Buffalo population to a record 280+ in the 2008-09 winter from its record
266 the previous winter. An increase of the population is anticipated since
it is in the growth portion of the 10-year population cycle that has
occurred during the middle of every decade.

Threats

The following based on information supplied by Ernie Kuyt is from the May
2008 issue of "Grus americana", a newsletter of the Whooping Crane
Conservation Association:

Threats to whooping cranes are also present "north of the border". The
Alberta government recently decided that Environmental Assessments (EAs)
would no longer be necessary for large power lines. Getting more
electricity to the citizens has become so urgent that EAs were determined to
cost too much, take too long, and were largely "unnecessary". Another
threat in Canada was brought to light recently when 500 ducks entered toxic
tailing ponds in the oil sands area north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Only 5
ducks had any hope for recovery from exposure to the oily chemicals. There
are 50 square kilometers of these toxic ponds, and they lie within the
migration path of the whooping crane. Propane cannons are routinely used to
haze birds from this area. A whooping crane family group that apparently
became oiled in fall, 2006 could have gotten into these tar sands waste
ponds.



Platte River, Nebraska



The Platte River Recovery Implementation Program agreed upon by federal
agencies and 4 states was signed by President Bush in May, 2008. More than
10 years in negotiation, the measure benefits endangered species yet allows
continued water use and development along the Platte.

The year 2008 marks the 30th anniversary of the Platte River Habitat
Whooping Crane Trust, Inc. This non-profit conservation outfit originated
as a result of court litigation over a proposed water reservoir on the
Platte River located in Wyoming. It mission is to protect habitat for
cranes and other migratory birds along the Big Bend Region of the Platte
River Valley. The Trust has made a big difference not only in protecting
habitat for the whooping crane, but also improving the environment in south
central Nebraska. It currently manages nearly 10,000 acres along the
Platte. The Trust also does research to make sure management activities are
science-based.



Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas



2007-08 Winter



Whooping Crane Coordinator Tom Stehn stationed at the Aransas NWR wrote up
his findings from the 2007-08 winter.



Abstract: The number and distribution of whooping cranes were studied on
the wintering grounds at Aransas during the 2007-08 winter. The peak
population equaled 227 white-plumaged birds and 39 juveniles totaling 266
cranes. This was 29 birds higher than the 237 cranes present the previous
winter. Mortality between spring and fall, 2007 was estimated at 9 cranes.
No mortality was documented at Aransas during the 2007-08 winter.



The peak population of 266 consisted of 144 adults, 83 subadults, and 39
juveniles. At most, 21 cranes were color-marked, representing 7.9% of the
population. The estimate of 72 pairs occupying territories was 5 more than
the previous winter. Territories and/or use areas were located on the
Aransas NWR (20), Lamar Peninsula (3), San Jose Island (16), Matagorda
Island (25), and Welder Flats (8). Cranes generally were found on the
refuge (74), Lamar (8), San Jose Island (71), Matagorda Island (85), and
Welder Flats (27). One juvenile whooping crane that was separated from its
parents was sighted in November in West Texas. Record highs were set in the
2007-08 winter for most cranes on Lamar (13), San Jose (77), Matagorda (87),
and tied the record on Welder Flats (31). Matagorda Island that held 34.2%
of the flock has in recent years surpassed the refuge for supporting the
most cranes.



Quality food resources were considered to be very good throughout the fall
and winter. The cranes fed heavily on wolfberry, blue crabs and fiddler
crabs while at Aransas. Wolfberries were available for the cranes in
November and December. Blue crabs declined in mid-winter, but a few were
always present. Cranes used open bay habitats to some extent during winter
low tide periods foraging on clams and/or invertebrates such as mud shrimp
or bloodworms. Some upland use was observed on prescribed burns. Bay and
marsh salinities were low the first half of the crane season but increased
to around 20 parts per thousand by spring. Moderate use of fresh water
sources was observed



Aransas NWR project leader Charlie Holbrook retired in June, 2008 after 8
years at the refuge. Many accomplishments occurred during his time at
Aransas. The new manager starting in October is Dan Alonso.



Land Development



Whooping cranes use wetlands and adjacent upland habitats off of Aransas and
Matagorda Island NWRs. Some of these areas are included in designated
Critical Habitat; others are not. Real estate development pressures are
rapidly increasing along these formerly isolated shores. It will bring many
new residents to a formerly sparsely populated portion of the Texas coast.
Six waterfront developments are planned between Seadrift and Port O'Connor
which are considerably larger than either of those towns. The population of
Seadrift is expected to double in the next decade. Additional developments
are occurring on the Lamar Peninsula directly west of Aransas NWR. These
developments will limit the area the whooping crane flock needs for
expansion if the flock continues to grow. Permanent protection of this
habitat is essential in the near term in order for the species to reach
long-term recovery goals.



To try to conserve key lands currently used by whooping cranes as well as
set aside lands expected to be used in the future, conservationists
undertook some actions to try to counter the rapid development. The Texas
Nature Conservancy (TNC) in partnership with other agencies is working hard
to protect key areas with conservation easements placed on key buffer areas
as a means for people and wildlife to coexist. Two areas slated for
protection using Section 6 grants are located in the crane area at Welder
Flats. Matching funds will come partially from one development currently
under construction in the crane area near Port O'Connor. The TNC applied
for a 1.5 million dollar grant from the Coastal Impacts Assistance Program
to protect 5,000 acres of crane habitat in the next 3 years primarily
through purchase of conservation easements. This grant application was not
funded in 2008. However, it made the cut of worthwhile projects for which
there just weren't sufficient funds available, and was re-applied for in
2009. In the meantime, 5 developments are either under construction or in
the planning stages in areas where crane use has been documented. I
strongly recommend that a Habitat Conservation Plan be prepared for future
developments occurring in the current and anticipated future crane range.



In September 2008, Tom Stehn and Felipe Prieto presented a paper at the 11th
North American Crane Workshop on the change in territories and range of
wintering whooping cranes at Aransas between 1950 and 2006. Based on
estimates of minimum territory sizes, they calculated that the current range
and nearby adjacent areas of unoccupied habitat will support approximately
511 cranes. If the cranes expand outwards into new areas as far as 69 miles
from Aransas NWR, they estimated there is enough salt marsh habitat on the
central Texas coast to support 1,004 whooping cranes. Although this meets
the criteria set for down-listing the species to "threatened" status, there
is insufficient habitat to fully recover the species. Therefore, with marsh
habitat a key limiting factor for whooping crane recovery, it is imperative
that as much of the marsh as possible be protected from development.







Freshwater Inflows



Two major processes have continued throughout the past year. The
state-appointed Environmental Flows Advisory Group met and held hearings to
provide future recommendations to ensure rivers have sufficient flows and
the bays have sufficient inflows to remain productive. The second planning
process that got underway is the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation
Program (EARIP) mandated by the Texas Legislature to determine the
sustainable levels of pumping from the aquifer and drought management
strategies. The Edwards Aquifer now serves 1.7 million people in South
Central Texas, providing San Antonio with 95% of the city's water. The
population is expected to double by mid-century, increasing the demand for
water. The EARIP will develop a plan to balance the needs of aquifer
stakeholders in San Antonio and surrounding areas with the requirements of
the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Although the Edwards Aquifer is a long
way from the coast and the EARIP is focused on endangered invertebrate
species in several key springs fed by the aquifer, spring flow can be a
major component of inflows (up to 80%) into whooping crane critical habitat,
especially in times of drought. Sufficient inflows are essential to support
abundant blue crab populations, the primary food of whooping cranes during
winter.



Wind Energy Development and Power Lines



The development of wind farms is occurring at a rapid pace in the Central
Flyway. Multiple wind farms have already been built, and it is important to
analyze the potential impact of literally tens of thousands of wind turbines
being placed in the whooping crane migration corridor in the coming years.
For example, one notably large project on the border of the Dakotas called
Titan is proposing to place 4,000 wind turbines over 200 square miles within
the whooping crane migration corridor.

With an investment of over $9 billion, the wind industry installed 5,244
megawatts of power in 2007, expanding the nation's total wind power
generating capacity by 45% in a single calendar year. These new
installations are expected to power the equivalent of 1.5 million American
households. This was the 3rd consecutive year of record-setting growth,
establishing wind energy as one of the largest sources of new electricity
for the country. The U.S. wind power fleet now numbers 16,818 megawatts
across 34 states, about 1% of national usage, powering over 4.5 million
homes. Texas has the most installed wind generating capacity of any state.

Projected growth of the wind industry is hard to visualize. Texas
billionaire T. Boone Pickens has gotten heavily involved in wind energy
development. His vision for wind farms is part of his wider vision for
replacing natural gas with wind and solar for power generation, and using
the natural gas instead to power vehicles. A newspaper article written
April 18, 2008 provided the following description;

"To picture Pickens' energy strategy, imagine a compass. Stretching from
north to south from Saskatchewan to Texas* would be thousands of wind
turbines, which could take advantage of some of the best U.S. wind
production conditions. On the east-west axis from Texas to California would
be large arrays of solar generation, which could send electricity into
growing Southern California cities like Los Angeles. The end result would
be to free up more clean-burning natural gas - primarily a power-generation
fuel now - to power automobiles."



                   * Note that Texas to Saskatchewan is the exact route of
the

                      whooping crane migration corridor. Many of the best
wind

                      development sites are located in that corridor.



The majority of the wind farms do not require federal permits and thus there
is no nexus for the companies to consult with USFWS. However, the projects
must avoid "take" of endangered species under Section 10 of the ESA. Wind
farms have the potential to directly kill whooping cranes either from the
turbines themselves or associated construction of power lines. If whooping
cranes completely avoid wind farm areas, wind energy development could
result in the removal of hundreds of square miles of migration stopover
habitat from use by the cranes. The National Academy of Science Report in
2004 on Platte River endangered species report stated unequivocally the
threat to whooping cranes if migration habitat is lost.



I'm concerned that potential impacts to whooping cranes need to be fully
evaluated. USFWS biologists throughout the whooping crane migration
corridor initiated conference calls to develop a unified approach to wind
energy development issues and met in December, 2007 in Lakewood, Colorado.
The meeting included both representatives of Endangered Species and Refuges
since wind development companies are requesting placing turbines on federal
grassland easements in the Dakotas which in some instances USFWS has
allowed. From this meeting and follow-up conference calls, it was decided
to recommend that the industry prepare a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for
wind energy development for the entire U.S. whooping crane migration
corridor. An HCP is a document that assigns a level of "take" of an
endangered species from development actions that occur on private lands
where there is no federal nexus. It legalizes those actions if measures
described in the HCP are carried out. Points that involved lots of
discussion included whether or not to include in the HCP all endangered
species as well as migratory bird issues. A decision was reached to focus
primarily on whooping cranes. A whooping crane / wind energy development
summit meeting was held in July, 2008 in Denver to discuss all aspects of
writing an HCP. Two USFWS Regional Directors attended along with key wind
development and utility companies working in the Central Flyway.
Discussions are continuing to try to get this HCP process underway.



I made a presentation in September, 2007 to the Avian Power Line Interaction
Committee (APLIC) expressing concerns about increased construction of power
lines, especially as wind power is developed. APLIC is very interested in
continuing to pursue conservation measures needed for whooping cranes and
have formed a whooping crane issue subcommittee. Whooping crane collisions
with power lines are believed to be the number one source of mortality for
fledged whooping cranes. Continued construction of power lines including
those associated with proposed wind farms in the migration corridor
threatens the recovery of the whooping crane.



Early on in my meeting with wind companies, I talked of two possible
scenarios for offsetting anticipated impacts of wind farms. These were;

1. To mark all new power lines as well as an equivalent distance of
existing power lines to offset the threat of whooping cranes colliding with
a wind turbine or power lines built to support wind development. Existing
lines need to be marked so that there is no net increase in the threat of
collision since marking lines is only 50-80% effective in reducing avian
collisions. Existing lines targeted would hopefully be in the migration
corridor located within 2 miles of a suitable crane wetland or known
stopover site.

2. To set aside whooping crane migration stopover habitat in perpetuity
to counter potential loss of habitat from wind energy development, and



The Nebraska USFWS Endangered Species office in Grand Island, Nebraska using
GIS prepared maps with updated information on the location of the whooping
crane migration corridor. This is a very important tool for analyzing the
risk to the species for specific wind farms. The data showed that 75% of all
documented whooping crane stopovers occur in a migration corridor roughly 80
miles wide. This work complemented work done by Dr. Karine Gil de Weir at
the Platte River Habitat Whooping Crane Trust.



One wind farm proposed at Wessington Springs in South Dakota entered formal
consultation under the ESA, the first case of its kind involving whooping
cranes. The federal nexus existed because of the involvement of the Western
Area Power Administration (WAPA). An Environmental Assessment was prepared
and USFWS wrote a draft biological opinion. No incidental take was granted
in the biological opinion, but take of habitat was covered. A second
project entering federal review involves 27 miles of transmission line in
eastern Montana.

Administration

The Recovery Strategy for the Whooping Crane in Canada was posted in its
final version on the SARA Public Registry on November 20, 2007. It can be
downloaded at: http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/virtual_sara/files/plans/

rs_whooping_crane_final_1007_e.pdf



The Crane Conservation Act was re-introduced in both the House and the
Senate in Washington and passed by the House in early June, 2008. This
legislation is aimed at helping species of cranes world-wide, and would
allow 20% of appropriated funds to go towards crane species in North
America.



FLORIDA NONMIGRATORY POPULATION



Work by Drs. Clint Moore and Sarah Converse of the Patuxent Wildlife
Research Center was completed on an adaptive management study of the Florida
non-migratory population. The model that was developed considered the
future of releases into the flock under various release scenarios, taking
into consideration expected performance of the flock, costs, public
relations, learning opportunities, and other aspects. Three meetings were
held in Florida involving key state and federal wildlife personnel to fine
tune the model. The analysis was presented in September, 2008 to the
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FLFWCC) and the Recovery
Team. The Recovery Team met in September, 2008 in Wisconsin. Although the
Team recognized the difficulties of reintroducing avian species, optimistic
assumptions in the Patuxent study provided no more than a 41% chance of
achieving a self-sustaining population, and most values were around 20% or
less. The Team felt that 24 whooping crane chicks per year were not
available for continued releases in Florida. Releasing fewer than 24 birds
annually lowered the probability for success even further. The Team felt
that the water regimes produced by periodic droughts in Florida make it
extremely unlikely that reproduction in wild-hatched Florida whooping cranes
will ever achieve production rates adequate for success. In addition, crane
habitat in Florida is faced with tremendous pressure from developers and is
expected to decline in the coming decades. Therefore, the Team concluded
that the probability of successful establishment of a self-sustaining
population was too low to justify continuing the reintroduction. The Team
recommended that no further releases of captive-reared whooping cranes be
made into the Florida non-migratory population. The Team did recommend that
the FLFWCC continue to study the remaining non-migratory whooping cranes to
maximize learning.



The following information is from the April-June, 2008 quarterly report
written by Whooping Crane Project Leader Marty Folk of the Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission:



The 2008 spring nesting season occurred in the ongoing drought conditions
that hindered success. There were 5 nests (2 were re-nests) by 3 pairs,
with 3 nests hatching 5 chicks; none of the chicks lived past 25 days. Four
of 5 nest locations were in lakes because marsh water levels were too low
for nesting.



During the spring quarter 2008, seven birds went missing. In addition, 3
mortalities were documented. The mortality and movements of birds were
likely associated with drought and the lack of water in marshes. One of the
mortalities was a wild-fledged bird, the fourth mortality from the 9
wild-fledged birds produced in the 16-year life of the project. At the end
of June 2008, 26 birds (8 pairs) were being monitored with the total
population estimated at 30.



EASTERN MIGRATORY POPULATION

The eastern migratory whooping crane population currently includes 69 adult
birds and 22 juveniles. Most of the whooping cranes in the eastern
migratory population make the desired migration between Wisconsin and
Florida. A few birds continue to summer in Michigan, and a few wander into
Minnesota and Iowa. In early June, 2008, 3 birds wandered into North Dakota
before returning to Minnesota.



Five whooping crane breeding facilities (Patuxent Wildlife Research Center,
International Crane Foundation, Calgary Zoo, San Antonio Zoo, and Species
Survival Center {SSC} in New Orleans) either provided eggs or hatched and
raised chicks in 2008. Eggs were shipped across international borders and
between facilities to meet production targets for the ultralight (UL) and
direct autumn release (DAR) reintroduction programs. Twenty-two chicks were
raised for the release programs in central Wisconsin (15 UL, 7 DAR). This
compares with fall 2007 when 27 birds were re-introduced into the eastern
migratory population (17 UL and 10 DAR). Chicks were hatched and trained at
Patuxent prior to shipment to Necedah NWR for the UL project. The Windway
Capital Corporation flight team transported the chicks to Wisconsin.
Additional eggs were hatched and chicks reared for several weeks at ICF
before being transported to Necedah NWR for the DAR project.



The nesting season for the wild migratory whooping cranes in Wisconsin was a
disappointment. All 11 nests built in central Wisconsin were abandoned just
prior to expected hatching. Four of 6 eggs rescued from the nests
successfully hatched at Patuxent. Nesting failure is currently the project's
foremost concern. Project Biologist Dr. Richard Urbanek has postulated that
the cranes are all abandoning the nests due to a huge hatch of black flies
correlated with warm, spring weather late in the incubation period. He
noticed hundreds of black flies on the abandoned eggs, photographed one
crane with numerous flies on it, and noted one crane pair leaving their nest
and running into thick brushy vegetation presumably to find relief from the
biting flies. Efforts in 2009 will focus on getting additional evidence for
this theory and attempting to control the black fly hatch.



Two substantial changes in the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) are
planned for fall, 2008. Operation Migration has laid out a new migration
route west of the Appalachians to try to avoid the rough mountain weather
and reduce the number of days they are unable to fly. Also, plans have been
formulated to split the flock upon arriving in Florida between St. Marks and
Chassahowitzka NWRs. The main reason for this split is to avoid one
disasterous event happening to the all the birds at once as happened in
February 2007 with the loss of 17 cranes from a lightning strike at
Chassahowitzka.



WCEP special advisor John Christian is among 16 national recipients of the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2007 National Recovery Champion awards. The
Recovery Champion award recognizes outstanding contributions of USFWS
employees and their partners toward efforts aimed at recovering threatened
and endangered species in the United States. USFWS Director Dale Hall was
quoted in a press release: "These Recovery Champions are extraordinary
conservationists dedicated to protecting and restoring our nation's wildlife
and ensuring that future generations of Americans enjoy the natural
treasures we experience today". Mr. Christian was recognized for eight
years of coordination with a variety of public and private landowners to
re-establish the endangered whooping crane as a breeding species in eastern
North America. In his former role as chair person of WCEP, he organized a
group of ultra-light pilots, species experts, conservationists, and federal,
state and private biologists who work together to breed, raise and "flight
train" whooping cranes. Christian's dedication has led to the current
population of 91 wild migrant whooping cranes in the eastern U.S. He
currently serves as the Midwest Region's assistant regional director for
migratory birds and state programs.



WCEP held meetings in February and September, 2008 to plan operations for
the reintroduction. With so many partners involved in the eastern
reintroduction, including agencies and non-profits, the semiannual meetings
are important to handle the many issues that arise. The Recovery Team
endorsed continued UL and DAR releases in 2009, but urged WCEP to focus on
determining the reason for nest abandonment.



LOUISIANA



At their meeting held in September 2008, the Recovery Team recommended that
multiple partners carry out actions working towards a potential future
release of non-migratory whooping cranes in Louisiana. Recommended actions
include;

Continue ongoing habitat studies led by Dr. Sammy King in an effort
to evaluate potential release sites.

In consultation with the Whooping Crane Health Advisory Team,
initiate studies to evaluate the presence/absence of infectious bursal
disease (IBD) in the migration corridor of the AWBP. Study results must
demonstrate that the AWBP would not be threatened by IBD by the
reintroduction of whooping cranes into Louisiana before the Team will
support a reintroduction.

Evaluate the regulatory actions needed to reintroduce nonmigratory
whooping cranes into Louisiana.

Fully coordinate and partner with the Louisiana Department of
Wildlife and Fisheries on all actions as appropriate.



Due to uncertainties with the lack of production in the Wisconsin whooping
crane population, it is not possible to say when a reintroduction might take
place in Louisiana. The Recovery Team hopes that in the next 1-2 years,
these questions in Wisconsin can be resolved and that the population of
whooping cranes in the eastern U.S. will be close to the target of 125 birds
and be reproducing. At that time, assuming the IBD study provides the
reassurances needed and that regulatory actions have been completed, it is
suggested that a small initial experimental reintroduction could be carried
out in Louisiana. This reintroduction could possibly use cranes that are
genetically surplus to the eastern migratory population and would test the
habitat before a larger reintroduction would be recommended.



CAPTIVE FLOCKS



The whooping crane breeding facilities had a good production season in 2008
but overall fell slightly below our high expectations. Twenty-two chicks
were raised for the release programs in central Wisconsin (15 ultralight, 7
direct autumn release), and 2 chicks of high genetic value were held back to
become captive breeders.



Patuxent and ICF successfully carried out programs for the reintroduction of
birds into the eastern migratory population. Both facilities also provide
personnel for various field operations with that population throughout the
year, and are great partners in helping out in all aspects of the
reintroduction. Patuxent hatched a total of 27 chicks, including eggs that
came from Calgary (8), ICF (3), SSC (1) and Necedah NWR (4). ICF is
renovating whooping crane pens and building a new exhibit for their African
crane species.



The Calgary Zoo had another very good production season and transported 9
fertile eggs to Patuxent. Their artificial insemination program for the
third year in a row greatly increased flock fertility. They had one adult
captive crane escape through flight netting from the zoo for 6 weeks during
the summer. It wandered as far as 6 miles away. After extensive baiting,
it was re-captured in a net trap and the feisty bird was returned to
captivity in time before it would get into trouble from winter weather.



The Audubon Freeport-McMoran Species Survival Center (SSC) in New Orleans
finished work on the first phase of their new whooping crane facilities. A
dedication was held in April, 2008 that was well-attended. Earlier in the
winter, 5 whooping cranes had been shipped to the new facility from ICF (2),
Calgary (2) and the San Antonio Zoo (1). In July 2008, one crane dropout
from the 2007 reintroduction program was shipped from Necedah NWR in central
Wisconsin to SSC. SSC also celebrated their second sandhill crane egg
fertilized using frozen semen that is thawed and then used to inseminate.
Last year was their first successful sandhill chick hatched using frozen
semen. They hope to use this technique on a whooping crane in 1-2 years.
SSC also had one breeding pair produce eggs for the eastern reintroduction.



A workshop with whooping crane flock geneticist Dr. Ken Jones and the
captive flock managers was held September 21, 2008 in Baraboo, Wisconsin. A
genetic analysis was done for both the captive flock and eastern migratory
population. The studbook was updated, pairing recommendations were made,
and crane transfers between facilities were planned. The captive flock
continues to make excellent progress towards retaining genetic diversity.















WHOOPING CRANE NUMBERS IN NORTH AMERICA

  September 30, 2008



Wild Populations





     Adult
     Young
     Total
     Adult Pairs

      Aransas/Wood Buffalo
      227
     39
     266A
           72

      Rocky Mountains
      0
     0
     0
     0

      Florida non-migratory
       30B
     0
       30B
           12

      Wisconsin/Florida migratory
     69
      22C
      91
           11

                   Subtotal in the Wild
     326
     61
     387
           95





A The 266 cranes above is the estimated flock size in spring, 2008.
Forty-one chicks fledged from a record 66 nests in 2008. Chicks hatched in
2008 are not added to the count until they reach Aransas in late fall.



B This number reflects the 26 birds regularly monitored in Florida plus 4
additional cranes believed to be alive in unknown locations. No chicks
fledged in the wild in 2008.



C The 5 whooping crane breeding facilities (Patuxent Wildlife Research
Center, International Crane Foundation, Calgary Zoo, San Antonio Zoo, and
Species Survival Center in New Orleans) either provided eggs or hatched and
raised chicks in 2008. Four eggs came from abandoned wild nests in
Wisconsin and successfully hatched at Patuxent. Twenty-two chicks are
currently being raised for the release programs in central Wisconsin (15
ultralight, 7 direct autumn release).













Captive Populations





     Adult
     YoungE
     Total
     Breeding Pairs

      Patuxent WRC, Maryland
     62
     4
     66
     13

      International Crane Foundation, WI
     32
     0
     32
     11

      Devonian Wildl. Cons.Cent./Calgary
     24
     0
     24
     6

      Species Survival Center, Louisiana
     12
     0
     12
     1

      Calgary Zoo, Alberta
     2
     0
     2
     0

      New Orleans Zoo, Louisiana
     2
     0
     2
     0

      San Antonio Zoo, Texas
     7
     0
     7
     1

      Homosassa Springs Wildl State Park
     2
     0
     2
     0

      Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa, Florida
     1
     0
     1
     0

      Jacksonville Zoo, Florida
     2
     0
     2
     0

      Milwaukee County Zoo, Wisconsin
     1
     1
     2
     0

                      Subtotal in Captivity
     147
     5
     152
     32





E Two of these young are genetic holdbacks and will remain in captivity as
future breeding stock. The table does not reflect captive young that have
entered reintroduction programs in 2008.



 TOTALS (Wild + Captive) 387 + 152= 539













> Attached is a whooping crane recovery update for the period November, 2007
> - September, 2008.
>
> Highlights are presented on Page 2. Whooping crane numbers in North
> America are on the last two pages (pp. 17-18).
>
>
> (See attached file: November 2007 to September 2008
> FINAL.doc)
>
>
> Tom Stehn, Whooping Crane Coordinator
> U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
> Aransas NWR
> P.O. Box 100
> Austwell, TX 77950
> (361) 286-3559 Ext. 221
> fax (361) 286-3722
> E:mail: [log in to unmask]



Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
[log in to unmask]

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April 2007, Week 5
April 2007, Week 4
April 2007, Week 3
April 2007, Week 2
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March 2007, Week 5
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January 2007, Week 1
December 2006, Week 5
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October 2006, Week 5
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September 2006, Week 1
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July 2006, Week 5
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July 2006, Week 3
July 2006, Week 2
July 2006, Week 1
June 2006, Week 5
June 2006, Week 4
June 2006, Week 3
June 2006, Week 2
June 2006, Week 1
May 2006, Week 5
May 2006, Week 4
May 2006, Week 3
May 2006, Week 2
May 2006, Week 1
April 2006, Week 5
April 2006, Week 4
April 2006, Week 3
April 2006, Week 2
April 2006, Week 1
March 2006, Week 5
March 2006, Week 4
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January 2006, Week 1
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October 2005, Week 5
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October 2005, Week 3
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October 2005, Week 1
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May 2005, Week 1
April 2005, Week 5
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April 2005, Week 1
March 2005, Week 5
March 2005, Week 4
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March 2005, Week 1
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February 2005, Week 3
February 2005, Week 2
February 2005, Week 1
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January 2005, Week 3
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January 2005, Week 1
December 2004, Week 5
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July 2004, Week 3
July 2004, Week 2
July 2004, Week 1
June 2004, Week 5
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February 2004, Week 1
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January 2004, Week 1
December 2003, Week 5
December 2003, Week 4
December 2003, Week 3
December 2003, Week 2
December 2003, Week 1
November 2003, Week 5
November 2003, Week 4
November 2003, Week 3
November 2003, Week 2
November 2003, Week 1
October 2003, Week 5
October 2003, Week 4
October 2003, Week 3
October 2003, Week 2
October 2003, Week 1
September 2003, Week 5
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September 2003, Week 1
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June 2003, Week 5
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April 2003, Week 5
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April 2003, Week 2
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January 2003, Week 5
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December 2002, Week 5
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November 2002, Week 3
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November 2002, Week 1
October 2002, Week 5
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October 2002, Week 3
October 2002, Week 2
October 2002, Week 1
September 2002, Week 5
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September 2002, Week 3
September 2002, Week 2
September 2002, Week 1
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August 2002, Week 4
August 2002, Week 3
August 2002, Week 2
August 2002, Week 1
July 2002, Week 5
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July 2002, Week 3

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