More Stopover Habitat for Whooping Cranes on Corps of Engineer Lakes

August 6, 2019
by Pam Bates, Friends of the Wild Whoopers

“Stopover habitat” for Whooping Cranes received another large boost this week. Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) and their Corps of Engineers (COE) partners recently completed evaluations of potential Whooping Crane “stopover habitats” on four additional COE lakes. During the past two years there has been remarkable increasing awareness and interest about Whooping Crane “stopover habitat” needs throughout the seven state mid-continent migration corridor. FOTWW President Chester McConnell is thrilled and remarked, “It’s about time”.

McConnell explains that, “Habitat is the most important need of the endangered Aransas-Wood Buffalo Whooping Crane population. It is the only remaining wild, self-sustaining Whooping Crane population on planet Earth. The Aransas-Wood Buffalo Whooping Cranes can take care of themselves with two exceptions. They need man to help protect their habitat and for people not to shoot them.” So FOTWW is dedicated to protecting and managing existing and potential “stopover habitat” where we can. Whoopers need many areas to stop, rest and feed during their two annual 2,500 mile migrations from Canada to the Texas coast.

During past 60 years, most interest in Whooping Crane habitat has focused on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast and Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. Aransas Refuge is the wintering habitat and Wood Buffalo is the nesting habitat for the cranes. This major focus on Aransas and Wood Buffalo habitats has been a wise management decision but over time the need for morel focus is needed on “stopover habitats”. In the past, most of the “stopover habitats” have been on small farm ponds and wetlands. Unfortunately for Whooping Cranes and many other wildlife species, these habitats have been and are being lost at an alarming rate due to changing land uses including larger agriculture fields and various kinds of development.

Unfortunately, relatively little interest has focused on “stopover habitat” where the Whoopers stop to rest and feed every night during migration. These stopover locations are scattered all along the 2,500 mile long migration corridor between Aransas Refuge and Wood Buffalo. Chester McConnell, FOTWW’s wildlife biologist stresses that “stopover habitats” are absolutely necessary and the Whooping Crane population could not exist without these areas. Importantly, Whooping Cranes spend 8 to 10 weeks migrating from their Wood Buffalo nesting grounds to their Aransas National Wildlife Refuge winter habitat. They cannot fly the total 2,500 mile distance without stopping to feed and rest. 15 to 30 times. They need many “stopover habitats” along the migration corridor to fulfill their needs.

Indeed, the population could not exist without all three habitat areas – the nesting habitat, winter habitat and stopover habitats. McConnell compared a human automobile trip of about 3,000 mile from New York to California. The driver would have to stop at three or four motels to rest and about 12 restaurants for meals. So it is for Whooping Crane needs for “stopover habitats”.

Expanding WC population

FOTWW is often asked, what is the organization doing for Whooping Cranes? Our answer is that we are continuing our major project to protect and help manage “stopover habitat” for Whooping Cranes. It’s happening on COE lakes, Indian Reservations and military bases throughout the migration corridor. We recently completed assessments on 27 lakes on Corps property and two hundred and ninety-eight ponds of various sizes (1/2 ac. to 4 ac.) on seven military bases.

Importance of Habitat for Whooping Cranes

FOTWW has very little funding assistance and decided to work with government agencies and Indian tribes who own land distributed all along the migration corridor from North Dakota to Texas. Land is the most expensive item and the Corps, military and Indian tribes already own thousands of acres. McConnell met with these land owners and explained the habitat needs of Whooping Cranes and how they could contribute without interfering with their normal missions. Fortunately, there was exceptional support and FOTWW has been working on the mission for over three years.

Recent visits to Corps of Engineer lakes

Chester McConnell and his FOTWW Field Assistant Dorothy McConnell recently visited four more COE lakes in Texas to evaluate potential “stopover habitats” for Whooping Cranes: Jim Chapman Lake, Ray Roberts Lake, Lewisville Lake and Hords Creek Lake. David Hoover, Conservation Biologist, Kansas City, MO, USACE in coordination with Lake Managers made arrangements for our visit.

FOTWW appreciates all involved with making preparations for a productive and enjoyable habitat evaluation official visit.

The following photos and descriptions will assist readers to understand our work.

Habitat for Whooping Cranes
A five person team using a large boat made observations of representative samples of potential “stopover habitats” for Whooping Cranes on Ray Roberts Lake. Team members in photo left to right: Martin K. Underwood, Environmental Stewardship Business Line Manager for the Trinity Region, USACE; Dorothy McConnell, Field Assistant, FOTWW; Nick Wilson, Lead Ranger for Lewisville and Ray Roberts Lakes, USACE; Rob Jordan, Lake Manager for both Lewisville and Ray Roberts Lakes, USACE. Team member FOTWW President Chester McConnell present but not in photo.
Habitat for Whooping Cranes
This photo exhibits one of the better “Whooping Crane “stopover habitats” that we observed on Ray Roberts Lake. It is currently suitable as a “stopover habitat”. Note the callout pointing to the narrow bar where Whoopers can walk out, feed and rest while being able to observe any predaters in the area. Note the two yellow arrows pointing to the long wide open areas where Whoopers can forage and rest.

***** 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.



Friends of the Wild Whoopers, (FOTWW) fundraiser

Friends of the Wild Whoopers
Whooping cranes enjoying the wild.

One of our newer and very enthusiastic supporters, Ali Forest-Walker has decided to host a Friends of the Wild Whoopers, (FOTWW) fundraiser on her Facebook page in hopes of raising money for FOTWW and the wild whooping cranes.  She took FOTWW’s president, Chester McConnell’s words to heart when he said “If you, or anyone would volunteer as a fundraiser, we would love to have you on board.” How wonderful of her to do this for us. She asked us permission to conduct a fundraiser and we immediately said “yes”, gave her our blessing, and wished her lots of success. Perhaps a few others will follow her lead too.

If you want to donate to Ali’s fundraiser and helping us continue our work, here is the link. She is hoping to raise $500 USD.

If hosting a Facebook fundraiser is not for you, perhaps you would donate to Ali’s fundraiser or share the link on your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media page for all of your social media friends to see. We know she would be happy and appreciative. We would be too!

We are more than happy to have anyone host a fundraiser for us. As we posted earlier, “The unfortunate situation is that FOTWW is a very small group doing a huge job. We don’t have corporate funding or grants and each official personally pays for their own expenses including, website upkeep and hosting, travel (motels, food and car/airline expense).  We love what we are doing but sincerely need funding. If you, or anyone would volunteer as a Fundraiser, we would love to have you on board.”
To Ali Forest-Walker, we can’t thank you enough for your efforts and wish great success with your FOTWW fundraiser.
To all who donate to her FOTWW fundraiser, we say THANK YOU!

***** 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.


FOTWW President to speak at Nebraska Crane Festival

Nebraska Crane Festival
Sandhill Crane. Photo by Virginia Short

Friends of The Wild Whoopers’ (FOTWW) President Chester McConnell will be a speaker at Audubon’s Nebraska Crane Festival 2019 program on Saturday, March 23rd between 10:00 and 10:50 AM. This year’s Audubon’s Nebraska Crane Festival, taking place March 21-24, 2019, brings together hundreds of crane lovers from around the country to Kearney, Nebraska. Visitors will get to interact with a wide range of environmental speakers, take part in incredible birding trips, and, best of all, experience the world’s largest gathering of Sandhill Cranes and maybe even a rare sighting of endangered Whooping Cranes!

McConnell will be discussing Whooping Crane biology and habitat needs. FOTWW has been working with military bases, Indian Reservations and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers for the past three years to identify and evaluate existing and potential “stopover habitats” on their properties. FOTWW believes that “stopover habitat” is a necessary but virtually ignored part of the overall effort to save endangered wild Whooping Cranes in the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population.

Once habitats have been identified, FOTWW prepares detailed plans for each property explaining how they should be developed and protected to provide essential “stopover habitats” for migrating Whooping Cranes. Whooping Cranes migrate a distance of 2,500 miles two times each year between their nesting habitat on Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada and their Aransas Refuge winter habitat on the Texas coast.

During each of the two annual migrations, the Whooping Cranes must stop to rest and feed 15 to 30 times. FOTWW believes that the wild population is capable of taking care of itself with two exceptions. These Whoopers need man to protect their habitats and to stop shooting them.

Clicking here will take you to the total Audubon’s Nebraska Crane Festival program agenda.

We hope to see you there!

***** 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.



FOTWW and the Upcoming Holiday Season

As we move deeper into the month of November, our thoughts begin to turn to the upcoming holiday season and with its arrival, comes shopping and traveling to see family, friends, and loved ones. In today’s hectic times, most of us make our travel plans and do our shopping online because it’s easier and we are able to do so in the comfort of our homes and on our own time frames.

When Friends of the Wild Whoopers, (FOTWW) received its nonprofit 501(c3) status in 2014, we enrolled in some online giving programs so that we could receive donations generated by our supporters who shop and search online. The programs that we have been enrolled in are AmazonSmile, GoodShop and GoodSearch. Everyone is aware of the AmazonSmile giving program, but so many are unaware of the GoodShop and GoodSearch programs.

Holiday Season
GoodShop and GoodSearch donates to FOTWW

For those who aren’t familiar with GoodShop and GoodSearch, let me try to give a short explanation on how both work. Both programs are easy to use and since we have been enrolled, our supporters who have signed up with the programs choosing FOTWW as their charity, have earned a total of $492.00 in donations for FOTWW and it was all done by shopping and/or searching online at no cost to you.


GoodSearch is a search engine and works like Google or any other search engine. For every online search you make, they donate 1¢ to FOTWW. That’s all there is to it! Make 10 searches from their portal and we receive a dime donation. It may not sound like much but those pennies do add up throughout the year.


Now about GoodShop. Everyone knows how AmazonSmile works and we can say that GoodShop works the same way, but is even better with 3,000+ partner stores to shop from. With AmazonSmile, charities receive ½ of 1% in donations on your purchase. That means for every dollar you spend at AmazonSmile, you generate ½ cent in donations.

GoodShop gives you more freedom of store choices, travel arrangements and their percentages of donations are higher than AmazonSmile. Let’s say you are traveling for the holidays. From the GoodShop portal, you could choose Travelocity, make your reservations as usual and by doing so, FOTWW would earn a donation of up to 4% of your purchase price. Make arranges through Orbitz and the donation is up to 3.5%, and Expedia earns up to 5%. There are other travel sites, but these examples give you an idea about how it works.

Do you like shopping at Walgreens, LL Bean, or JC Penney online? Through the GoodShop portal, your purchases from Walgreens would earn FOTWW a donation of up to 4%, purchases from LLBean, 2% and JC Penney, 3%. It’s that easy! You shop and GoodShop donates to FOTWW.

Why FOTWW participates

You may wonder why we are mentioning this. FOTWW is an all-volunteer nonprofit and all FOTWW staff members donate their time, energy and sometimes their own personal funds to keep you informed and to continue our mission to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat, including our “stopover habitat” project.

So with the upcoming holidays just around the corner, won’t you please consider enrolling in the GoodShop and GoodSearch programs? All you need to do is go to their website, give them your name and email address, and choose Friends of the Wild Whoopers as your charity. Having been enrolled in the program for several years, I can assure you that you won’t receive tons of emails from them and your information is kept private.

FOTWW thanks everyone who are currently supporting us through GoodShop and GoodSearch and to those who start using it, we thank you beforehand. If you should have any questions about these programs, please feel free to send us an email or post a comment under this article, and we’ll gladly answer them.

Already using GoodShop and GoodSearch? Please share this with families, friends and coworkers who may not know about it.

Thank you all!
Pam Bates
Vice President – FOTWW