|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2013-10-10                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than three years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Mark Klym, 512-389-4644, mark.klym@tpwd.texas.gov ]
Oct. 10, 2013
Whooping Cranes Beginning Their Fall Journey to Texas
AUSTIN -- Endangered whooping cranes have begun their annual 2,400-mile fall migration from Canada to Texas. As the rare birds approach the Lone State, a citizen science initiative is inviting Texas residents and visitors to report whooper sightings.
Texas Whooper Watch (http://tpwd.texas.gov/whoopingcranes/) is a volunteer monitoring program that is a part of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Texas Nature Trackers program. The program was developed to help the agency learn more about Whooping Cranes and their winter habitats in Texas.
Since beginning their slow recovery from a low of 16 birds in the 1940s, whoopers have wintered on the Texas coast on and near Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Recently though, several groups of whooping cranes expanded their wintering areas to include other coastal areas and some inland sites in Central Texas. This year, some of the whooping cranes from an experimental flock in Louisiana spent most of the summer months in Texas, and the Whooper Watch volunteers were able to provide valuable information to TPWD, Louisiana Game and Fish and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service about these birds.
This year biologists expect Whooping Cranes to start arriving in Texas in late October or early November. Texas Whooper Watch will also help improve the accuracy of surveys on the wintering grounds, as the growth of the flock has made traditional census methods more difficult.
Whoopers usually follow a migratory path through North and Central Texas that includes cities such as Wichita Falls, Fort Worth, Waco, Austin, and Victoria. During migration they often pause overnight to use wetlands for roosting and agricultural fields for feeding, but seldom remain more than one night. The typical sighting (71 percent of all observations) is fewer than three birds, but they may be seen roosting and feeding with large flocks of the smaller sandhill crane. Whoopers are the tallest birds in North America, standing nearly five feet. The cranes are solid white in color except for black wing-tips that are visible only in flight. They fly with necks and legs outstretched.
Citizens can help by reporting sightings of whooping cranes and by preventing disturbance of cranes when they remain overnight at roosting and feeding locations. Sightings can be reported to whoopingcranes@tpwd.texas.gov or 512-389-TXWW (8999). Observers are asked especially to note whether the cranes have colored leg bands on their legs. Volunteers interested in attending training sessions to become "Whooper Watchers" in order to collect more detailed data may also contact the TPWD at whoopingcranes@tpwd.texas.gov or 512-389-TXWW (8999).
Additional information, including photos of whooping crane look-alike species, can be found at http://tpwd.texas.gov/whoopingcranes/ and at http://www.whoopingcrane.com/report-a-sighting/ .

[ Note: This item is more than three 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]
Oct. 10, 2013
Texas State Parks Open, Unaffected by Federal Shutdown
AUSTIN-As the federal budget impasse persists well into the second week, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wants the public to know that the welcome mat is still out at the more than 90 Texas state parks.
"Although our federal partners are experiencing temporary closure of their sites, which we hope will reopen soon, Texas state parks remain open and our staff is eager to welcome visitors to the great outdoors," says Brent Leisure, Texas State Parks director. "Our parks expect to be especially busy since autumn is an extraordinary time to be outdoors."
A number of TPWD offices and state parks have reported receiving calls since the partial federal government shutdown on Oct. 1 from people wanting to know if state parks are still open. Many of the customer inquiries are coming from people who had been camping or had reservations to camp at Big Bend National Park, in national forests or at lake parks operated in Texas by the U.S. Corps of Engineers that have closed their gates due to the federal shutdown.
"Here in Austin, the Customer Service Center has been receiving a number of calls from customers asking if our state parks are open, which we assure them that they are," says TPWD's Ron Hoelle, CSC park operations manager. "The weekly calls to the Big Bend Ranch State Park line are up roughly a third since the shutdown."
Superintendent Barrett Durst reported Wednesday that the number of visits this month to Texas' largest state park that lies just west of the national park has hit 350, which is just shy of the total for the entire month of October 2012 last year. He attributes the increase to Big Bend National Park's closure.
On the Texas-Oklahoma border, Eisenhower State Park Superintendent Paul Kisel reports seeing considerable spillover from the more than 10 closed Corps parks surrounding Lake Texoma since Oct. 2 when campers had to vacate. He says the state park has been averaging 50 to 100 calls per day from people wanting to know if Eisenhower is still open.
Winter Texans expecting to make their usual sojourns to Laguna Atascosa and Santa Ana national wildlife refuges in the Rio Grande Valley, which remain closed, might want to consider visiting the three state-run World Birding Center sites that offer world-class wildlife viewing opportunities: Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley (Mission), Estero Llano Grande (Weslaco) and Resaca de la Palma (Brownsville) state parks.
State park reservations can be made by Internet, fax or phone. Park reservations can be made between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, by calling (512) 389-8900. A tip: call volume tends to be heaviest early in the week, so customers might try calling Wednesday through Friday to reserve a campsite, cabin, screened shelter or group facility.