Tar balls found ashore, but no threat to ANWR from oil spill yet, says USFW; Lone crane remains at refuge

Jun 1, 2010 | TAP Updates

Tom Stehn, the whooping crane coordinator for Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, has released his latest census report of the flock wintering at ANWR. Only one crane is still left at the refuge, and the effects of the oil spill are starting to show along the Texas coast.  An aerial census flight was conducted May 19, 2010 in a Cessna 210 piloted by Gary Ritchey of Air Transit Solutions of Castroville, Texas with USFWS observer Tom Stehn.  This is the first flight since the airplane was damaged by a bird strike on the March 23rd census.  The plane’s windshield, several instruments, and interior were replaced.

A single white-plumaged whooping crane was sighted on the refuge’s Dunham Point Marsh.  I could not tell if the crane is the one we refer to as Scarbaby that has failed to migrate several years.  Dunham Point is adjacent to the Lobstick territory, the parents of Scarbaby, so that is why I think the crane could be him.

The spring migration proceeded ahead of schedule this year.  The highlight of the migration was the presence of 76 whooping cranes in 5 separate groups on the Quivira NWR on  April 1st.  Another interesting report was the presence of 5 whooping cranes 2 miles from the Titan I wind project in South Dakota April 3-5.  The turbines were shut down during critical times, and were actually ordered shut down by a biological monitor as the birds began their migration flight.   The two cranes radioed at Aransas were tracked successfully and both completed the migration.  One is sitting on a nest, and the radioed juvenile was recently located north of Wood Buffalo National Park and across Great Slave Lake.

From the Gulf oil spill, models predict < 1 percent chance of oily waters reaching the central Texas coast.  However, tar balls are expected to be hitting the Texas beaches.  The refuge has videotaped the beach and marsh edges.  Additional biological monitoring will be done in the near future to assess potential future damage from oil impacts.