First whooping cranes sighted at wildlife refuge

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Oct. 27, 2017 at 8:33 p.m.
Updated Oct. 27, 2017 at 10:45 p.m.

A whooper takes flight as seen from aboard The Skimmer out of Fulton Harbor in Rockport.

A whooper takes flight as seen from aboard The Skimmer out of Fulton Harbor in Rockport.

Birders can breathe a sigh of relief.

Whooping cranes are back on the Texas Coast, about two months after Hurricane Harvey changed their wintering grounds.

"Two groups of two were spotted at different times and at different locations," Wade Harrell, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' whooping crane recovery coordinator, said Friday. "I think the first group was on Wednesday and the second group was on Thursday. They were adults, and that's pretty typical. The family groups or the pairs with juveniles are usually the last to arrive."

Harrell said they were seen on Blackjack Peninsula at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

An early report was conveyed late last week by Capt. Tommy Moore, of Rockport Birding and Kayak Adventures, according to other Refuge officials, and confirmed by a nonprofit called the International Crane Foundation.

There are about 400 in the only naturally occurring flock of whooping cranes in the world.

They are returning to Texas from Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada, where a record 63 chicks hatched.

Those who love the endangered species have been feverishly preparing for their arrival even in the midst of recovering personally from Harvey.

And that includes repairing wells to replenish freshwater ponds the whooping cranes drink from, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received a grant to do.

"James Dodson with the San Antonio Bay Partnership has been in contact with contractors, and they are getting us quotes now.

"They hope to be out there making the repairs soon, probably by next week," Harrell said.


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