Friday, March 4, 2011

Whooping it Up...continued

The following day we were fortunate to observe action of another kind...Whooping Crane Wars! The cohort was again in the pasture when the resident family arrived. The big male crane wasted no time in chasing the interlopers away, accenting his charges with much flapping and whooping.

The trespassing group took to the skies, and circled the area a number of times. They are spectacular on the wing, as you can see.

The cohort finally settled a short distance away in St. Charles Bay and began fishing for blue crab, clams and other tasty tidbits.

Unfortunately, they had chosen a section of the bay that is claimed by another family of Whoopers that arrived a few moments later.  They are known as the Johnson Family or the Crane House Family, after the property they claim as their territory.  This family consists of a male and female and their two chicks (now almost yearlings). You can tell the youngsters by the brown feathers on their heads.

The Crane House Family also wasted no time in driving the trespassing cranes from their territory.


Yesterday we again visited Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and learned that this year a total of 281 cranes have been counted wintering there. Of these, 45 are chicks who should reach maturity in two more years.

We were told that 263 cranes left AWR in April of 2010 on their annual migration to their summer range in Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories, Canada.  During the summer, 74 nests and 46 young cranes were spotted at Wood Buffalo NP, so it seems that almost all the young hatched last year made it back to AWR for the winter. That is very important, as the total wild and captive population of endangered Whooping Cranes worldwide is only 575 birds.  We also learned that newly-mated Whooping Crane pairs sometimes take several years to raise a chick successfully, and that they usually raise only one each year. (The Crane House Family is unusual in that they have successfully reared twins.)
We have thoroughly enjoyed observing these magnificent birds, and look forward to seeing them when we return next year.

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