The number of whoopers climbs
The number of whooping cranes at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge continues to climb, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services whooping crane coordinator Tom Stehn reports, with 268 birds sighted.
Stehn and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services biologist Brad Strobel counted 223 adults and 45 juveniles during their second flyover in a Cessna 210 on Thursday.
Stehn said 31 birds have arrived since the last flyover was conducted Dec. 1.
The blue crabs the birds feed off of are still readily available, but most of this year's crop of wolfberries has already been consumed.
Stehn reported that another crane from the flock has been spotted in Cherokee, Okla. bringing the total number of the flock up to 269 birds so far.
There were 263 cranes in the flock last year. Biologists expect between 285 and 290 birds in the flock this year.
This flock of whooping cranes has migrated between Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge since the Ice Ages.
The birds travel solo, in couples or in small groups. The birds were first sighted arriving at the refuge Oct. 16.
The birds will spend winter here, leaving to return to Canada in the spring.