Stopover habitats located for Whooping Cranes

Whooping cranes need "stopover" habitats during their 2,500 mile migration between Canada and the Texas coast.
Whooping cranes need “stopover” habitats during their 2,500 mile migration between Canada and the Texas coast.

by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers

Efforts to identify, protect and manage Whooping Crane stopover habitats on military installations are continuing. The project is designed to aid Whooping Cranes during their two annual migrations between Canada and the Texas coast. Stopover habitats are essential to Whooping Cranes so they can rest and feed during their 2,500 mile migrations.

The Friends of the Wild Whoopers and Gulf Cost Bird Observatory (FOTWW- GCBO) team is traveling to various military installations throughout the migration corridor to work with base personnel on the project. The FOTWW-GCBO team contends that it is imperative that we provide more help to the only wild Whooping Cranes population remaining on earth

The FOTWW-GCBO team recently visited six military bases to determine where marginal habitats areas can be improved by proper management or new habitats developed.

“Stopover” wetland pond on Texas Army National Guard Camp Bowie. FOTWW-GCBO classified this pond to be in excellent condition. Horizontal visibility around all sides of the pond is good. Slopes into the water are gentle and gradual (<5 degrees). No tall emergent vegetation or submerged vegetation exist at roost site. The pond is 300 plus meters from human development or disturbance.

Three Texas Army National Guard camps were visited recently to make detailed assessments of potential “stopover habitats”. Brian Knapp, Wildlife Biologist, Texas Military Forces, Adjutant General’s Department made arrangements for our visit, provided natural resources data for the three camps and guided us on a tour of Camp Swift, Camp Bowie and Camp Maxey.

The primary function of the three camps is for training of the Texas Army National Guard. Importantly, the three camps all have Natural Resource Management Plans which are designed to consider a variety of resources. The FOTWW-GCBO team identified “stopover habitats” and developed a report with recommendations for management. The report will become a part of the Resource Plans on the National Guard camps. No recommendations are made that would interfere with the military missions.

The three camps include over 100 wetland ponds. Importantly 15 of these are high quality Whooping Crane stopover habitats, or can easily become so with minor management. Six of the 15 ponds need minor amounts of low cost management to bring them into a more suitable condition. The FOTWW-GCBO team concluded that the 15 ponds will adequately fulfill the needs of Whooping Cranes as stopover habitats within the general land areas of the three camps.

The majority of the remaining wetland ponds on the three camps are small and surrounded by dense growths of bushes and trees and the bulk of them go dry during summer due to porous soils and low rainfall. Due to these characteristics, many of the ponds are not suitable as “stopover habitat” for Whooping Cranes. Importantly however, these ponds are important to many other species of wildlife.

The FOTWW-GCBO team has also visited other installations and identified more potential stopover habitats. Management recommendations have been made where needed for each specific site. We will continue our efforts until all receptive military bases have been visited.

We invite you to be a partner with us in this important stopover habitat project. We need you. FOTWW’s travel expense (motels, auto expense, and meals) cost an average of $230 per day. You can send us a donation by check or PayPal. Please click here . Then at top of screen click on “Support FOTWW” and then “become a Friend (member) of the Wild Whoopers”. Please help us, help them. THANKS! logo

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****
Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.