CORPUS CHRISTI CALLER TIMES

Whooping Crane Festival to highlight Coastal Bend’s natural diversity

Feb 23, 2011 | Corpus Christi Caller Times by Michael Wright | Related Press

COASTAL BEND — Seventy years ago, the whooping crane’s prospects were as frail as its thin frame, and just 21 of the elegant birds showed up to their winter homes in the Coastal Bend.

However, for whoopers and the birders who enjoy watching them, the future is bright and the species has rebounded, including a record count of 281 birds last year, said Tom Stehn, whooping crane coordinator at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Organizers of the 15th Annual Whooping Crane Festival, which runs through Sunday, hope to not only highlight the cranes but also the area’s natural diversity.

The event will include speakers on conservation efforts, birding seminars, wildlife photography and trips into the field to see nature up close, said Ann Vaughan, executive director of the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce.

“Port Aransas has become a real popular spot for birders because we have such a wide variety of species that you can see down here even in the winter months,” Vaughan said. “It is definitely a great economic impact to the community.”

Rich Beilfuss, president and CEO of the International Crane Foundation, said the cranes took a hit two years ago because of drought conditions, but they’ve come back strong thanks to plenty of rain. This year is especially good because wet weather has boosted the blue crab population, giving the cranes plenty to eat, he said.

Stehn said it all means there should be plenty of chances to see the birds in their natural nesting grounds.

“They’ve been coming there since the Ice Ages,” he said.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: 15th annual Whooping Crane Festival

WHEN: Thursday through Sunday

WHERE: Port Aransas

COST: $20/registration; cost varies by event

INFORMATION: 361-749-5919 or

www.whoopingcranefestival.org; Registration is at the Port Aransas Civic Center, 710 W. Ave. A

Thursday’s Schedule

1:30-6 p.m.: Registration at Port Aransas Civic Center

2-4 p.m.: Nature/Birding Boat Tour, Woody’s Sports Center

4:30-6 p.m.: Dolphin Encounters Boat Tour, Deep Sea Headquarters

6-8 p.m.: Welcome Reception, Art Center for the Islands

Friday’s schedule

7:30 a.m. to noon: whooping crane boat tour, Fisherman’s Wharf

8 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Registration at th Port Aransas Civic Center

9 to 11 a.m.: Photography workshop, Bill Ellis Memorial Library

10 to 11:30 a.m.: Local birding bus trip, Port Aransas Civic Center

10 a.m. to noon: Nature/birding boat tour, Woody’s Sports Center

11 to 11:45 a.m.: WEC tour, UTMSI/Wetlands Education Center

12:30 to 5 p.m.: Whooping crane boat tour, Fisherman’s Wharf

1 to 2:30 p.m. :Dolphin Encounters boat tour, Deep Sea Headquarters

1 to 1:50 p.m.: ARK tour, Animal Rehabilitation Keep — ARK

2 to 3:30 p.m.: Local birding bus trip, Port Aransas Civic Center

2 to 2:50 p.m. ARK tour, Animal Rehabilitation Keep — ARK

2 to 4 p.m.: Nature/birding boat tour, Woody’s Sports Center

3 to 3:45 p.m.: WEC tour, UTMSI/Wetlands Education Center

4 to 6 p.m.: Nature/birding boat tour, Woody’s Sports Center

4:30 to 6 p.m.: Dolphin Encounters boat tour, Deep Sea Headquarters

Saturday’s Schedule

7 to 11 a.m.: Shorebird birding field trip, Port Aransas Civic Center

8 to 9:30 a.m.: Local birding bus trip, Port Aransas Civic Center

9 to 11 a.m.: Photography workshop, Bill Ellis Memorial Library

10 to 10:50 a.m.: ARK tour, Animal Rehabilitation Keep — ARK

10 to 11:30 a.m.: Local birding bus trip, Port Aransas Civic Center

10 a.m. to noon: Nature/birding boat tour, Woody’s Sports Center

11 to 11:45 a.m.: WEC tour, UTMSI/Wetlands Education Center

Noon to 1:30 p.m.: Local birding bus trip, Port Aransas Civic Center

12:30 to 5 p.m.: Whooping crane boat tour, Fisherman’s Wharf

1 to 1:50 p.m.: ARK tour, Animal Rehabilitation Keep — ARK

1 to 2:30 p.m.: Dolphin Encounters boat tour, Deep Sea Headquarters

1 to 4 p.m.: Birding 101 workshop, Port Aransas Civic Center

2 to 4 p.m.: Nature/birding boat tour, Woody’s Sports Center

2 to 3:30 p.m.: Local birding bus trip, Port Aransas Civic Center

2 to 2:50 p.m.: ARK tour, UTMSI/Wetlands Education Center

2 to 4 p.m.: Special session on whooping cranes, UTMSI/Wetlands Education Center

3 to 3:45 p.m.: WEC tour, UTMSI/Wetlands Education Center

4 to 6 p.m.: Nature/birding boat tour, Woody’s Sports Center

4:30 to 6 p.m.: Dolphin Encounters boat tour, Deep Sea Headquarters

Sunday’s Schedule

7 to 11 a.m.: Birding 101 field trip, Port Aransas Civic Center

7 to 9 a.m.: Photography field trip, Bill Ellis Memorial Library

9 to 10:30 a.m.: Local birding bus trip, Port Aransas Civic Center

10 a.m. to noon: Nature/birding boat tour, Woody’s Sports Center

10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.: Whooping crane boat tour, Fisherman’s Wharf

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Local birding bus trip, Port Aransas Civic Center

1 to 2:30 p.m.: Dolphin Encounters boat tour, Deep Sea Headquarters

1 to 1:50 p.m.: ARK tour, Animal Rehabilitation Keep — ARK

2 to 4 p.m.: Nature/birding boat tour, Woody’s Sports Center

2 to 2:50 p.m.: ARK tour, Animal Rehabilitation Keep — ARK

2 to 3:30 p.m.: Local birding bus trip, Port Aransas Civic Center

Registration

A registration fee of $20 permits you to attend all speaker sessions and receive reduced rates on festival activities. Speaker sessions will take place in the UTMSI Visitor Center Auditorium located on Cotter Street (near the beach). You will need to show your registration badge for entry to each speaker session and to receive special festival rates on birding and nature trips. Individual speaker sessions are $10 for non-registrants, space permitting. The festival benefits the conservation of whooping cranes and other birds.

Whooping crane numbers

From a low of 21 cranes in 1941, whooping crane numbers steadily have increased.

1950 34

1960 33

1970 56

1980 76

1990 146

1991 132

1992 136

1993 143

1994 133

1995 158

1996 160

1997 182

1998 183

1999 185

2000 177

2001 174

2002 185

2003 194

2004 216

2005 218

2006 237

2007 266

2008 270

2009 263

2010 281

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