|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2011-11-08                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
Nov. 8, 2011
Whooping Cranes arriving in Texas
With whooping cranes now making their way back to Texas for the winter, biologists are hoping this year will see a record number of the endangered birds in the state.
Their population reached a low 21 birds in the wild in the 1940s and again in 1954. The only remaining wild population now nests in northwestern Canada and spends the winter foraging in the wetlands and uplands of the central Texas coast. Last year 283 birds arrived in Texas. But with a reported 37 chicks fledged in Canada this past summer, biologists think that the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population, which once numbered only 17 birds, might hit the 300-bird milestone in Texas for the first time this year.
Though the whooping crane has made a remarkable comeback, primarily due to protection from unregulated shooting and habitat conservation, the species still faces daunting obstacles, especially in the 2,400-mile migration path traversed each spring and fall. Two-thirds to three-fourths of the annual mortality in the population occurs during the approximately nine weeks the cranes may spend in migration each year.
Radio-marked birds detected in Texas earlier this fall are two of 22 birds being tracked in a study being conducted by Felipe Chavez-Ramirez of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory designed to help better understand habitat use and sources of mortality during migration.
Even on the wintering grounds, where private and public land owners in the stretch of coast between Port Aransas and Seadrift have collaborated to help protect whooping crane habitat, additional challenges exist, according to Lee Ann Linam, a wildlife diversity biologist at Texas Parks and Wildlife.
"Despite the existence of protected areas such as Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and private landowners who are committed to habitat conservation," she said, "broad threats such as shifts in climate and in freshwater inflow, invasion of black mangrove, declines in food items such as blue crab, development pressures, and the possibility of a pollution event still provide challenges for conservation of whooping cranes and other coastal species. The comeback of the whooping crane will continue to be as vulnerable as the health of our coastal ecosystems."
Texas citizens away from the coast can also contribute to conservation efforts for the whooping crane. The cranes usually pass through a migration corridor in Texas that extends from the Texas panhandle eastward to Dallas-Fort Worth and southward to the wintering grounds on the central Texas coast. Their flight path would take them over major cities such as Wichita Falls, Fort Worth, Waco, Austin, and Victoria. The majority of the cranes pass through Texas from late October through the end of November. Citizens can help by reporting sightings of whoopers and prevent disturbance of cranes when they remain overnight at roosting and feeding locations.
Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America, standing nearly five feet. They are solid white except for black wing-tips that are visible only in flight. They fly with necks and legs outstretched. During migration they often pause overnight to use wetlands for roosting and agricultural fields for feeding, but seldom remain more than one night. They nearly always migrate in small groups of fewer than 4-5 birds, but they may be seen roosting and feeding with large flocks of the smaller sandhill crane.
Anyone sighting a whooping crane can help by reporting it to TPWD at 1-800-792-1112 x4644 or 1-512-847-9480. Sightings can also be reported via e-mail at leeann.linam@tpwd.texas.gov. Observers are asked especially to note whether the cranes have colored leg bands on their legs.
Additional identification aids can be found at http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/?o=whooper and http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/CurrentBirdIssues/SandhillCranes/SandhillCraneHunters.htm. Information about opportunities to view wintering whooping cranes can be obtained from Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/aransas/) or the Rockport Chamber of Commerce (http://www.rockport-fulton.org/).

[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
Nov. 8, 2011
Get Cooking in Texas State Parks
Meal Prep Options Exist for Campers Even During Drought
AUSTIN - Grilling on an outside pit and gathering around a warming campfire to swap stories or roast marshmallows rank as two of the more popular reasons for camping out. But as Texas state parks prepare for a busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend, visitors to some parks will face a variety of challenges to those two favorite pastimes due to the ongoing drought and continued wildfire dangers.
More than 200 of Texas' 254 counties are currently under a burn ban, affecting campers in dozens of Texas state parks, but restrictions vary as to the types of fire allowed. Some parks permit the use of containerized fuel (propane) stoves and/or charcoal grills with lids, but don't allow wood or ground fires. Garner State Park has instituted a hybrid rule that allows campers to use wood or charcoal in barbecue pits or fire rings for meal preparation only with the understanding burning coals will be extinguished immediately afterward. Park rangers will be patrolling to enforce that policy.
Camping enthusiasts should know that even in lingering drought conditions, a number of state parks, including Lake Mineral Wells, Possum Kingdom, Palmetto and South Llano River, are operating with no bans on traditional campfires or outdoor cooking.
Planning ahead for preparation of campground meals, especially in burn ban-impacted parks, will result in a more enjoyable experience for the entire family, according to a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department camping expert.
"For folks to have a successful camping trip, they need to know the burn ban level prior to their park visit, as that will directly affect what and how they can cook," explains Lindsey Davis, TPWD's Texas Outdoor Family program coordinator. "They need to plan ahead and prepare -- a core tenet of our outdoor camping program's 'Leave No Trace' principles."
Davis recommends beginner outdoor chefs prepare meals over charcoal, rather than wood. That's because cooking temperatures are easier to regulate and the charcoal can be ready to cook on within 20 minutes or less, while wood fires can take twice as long.
Another "marvelous" option for campers, she says, is Dutch oven cooking, which can utilize either charcoal or wood coals - placed under the iron cooking pot and atop the lid - to regulate the cooking temperature. Each white-hot briquette equates to about 15-20 degrees, so you can control the heat as you would in an electric or gas oven. Everything from pizzas and enchiladas to stews and cobblers are ideal for Dutch oven cooking.
Cooking with a propane-fueled camp stove is quite simple, according to Davis. With a little practice, cooks can prepare just about anything they would on a stove at home, as long they stir the food constantly to prevent what's on the bottom of the pan from being scorched by the intense flame.
"You can still eat well during a complete burn ban if you plan ahead and get creative," Davis contends. "Sandwiches and wraps work well, as do different kinds of salads."
Even if there is no burn ban at the park, Davis suggests minimizing campfire impacts by only building as large a fire as needed for the cooking purpose at hand, such as roasting weenies or heating s'mores over a campfire.
Remember that county judges and/or county commissioners can implement a burn ban at any time, and restrictions can change rapidly to accommodate dangerous conditions. A state park will be affected if it is located in a county under a current burn ban, although it may be granted an exemption.
To know what campfire and cooking restrictions are in effect at a given state park, inquire while making a reservation, visit the TPWD's state park pages at: http://www.texasstateparks.org or call state park information at 1-800-792-1112, option 3, between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
If you're new to camping or need to brush up on rusty outdoor skills, consider a Texas Outdoor Family outing with Davis and other TPWD outdoor experts at one of the following state parks: Cleburne and McKinney Falls (Nov. 12), Pedernales Falls and Dinosaur Valley (Nov. 19), and Brazos Bend and Estero Llano Grande/World Birding Center (Dec. 3).
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