Rockport-Fulton – The endangered Whooping Cranes have arrived, marking the end of their annual 2,600-mile journey to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The 500-plus birds making up the Wood Buffalo Flock spend the spring and summer in and around Wood Buffalo National Park on the Alberta/Northwest Territories border in Canada.
A single whooper was reported Oct. 28, 2018 with a flock of Sandhill Cranes. Diane Johnson, owner of Crane House, a short-term rental property located beside St. Charles Bay just north of Rockport reported four sub-adult cranes on deer feeders in their yard four days later.
Captain Tommy Moore, who operates the Skimmer out of Fulton Harbor, has been providing boat tours into the refuge since 2003 to see the rare birds. “We should have a great season for viewing the whoopers this year with plenty for them to eat in their favorite habitat,” he said.
“We start anticipating the cranes’ arrival towards the end of October,” Moore added. “We typically have a few birds in the first week of November. These birds rely on strong Pacific fronts to aid them in migration. The fronts of recent weeks have really helped the birds along this year.”
While these birds have met a lot of adversity in past years with drought conditions affecting their prime source of nourishment, the blue crab, abundant rains in Texas over the past two years have reestablished this important part of their diet.
Boat tours into the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge are the best way to see these rare birds up close in their natural habitat from November through April. For information about boat tours, call the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce at (361) 729-6445 or email email@example.com.
“We are thrilled to welcome the Whooping Cranes back to their winter home at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge,” said Laura Bonneau, visitor services manager at the refuge.
To learn more about the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, go to www.fws.gov/refuge/aransas/ or call (361) 349-1138 or call their Visitor Contact Station at (361) 349-1181. Hours are 6:45 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday through Saturday.