FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Two sandhill cranes that left Fairbanks in late August and headed south have touched down in Texas.
''They're about 80 miles apart,'' said John Wright, manager of Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge where the birds were fitted with satellite transmitters in August 2001. ''One is east of Amarillo and one is south of Amarillo.''
Biologists originally fitted four cranes with satellite transmitters but two of the transmitters lost their antennae this summer.
Biologists, however, spotted the birds and their leg bands at Creamer's Field this fall.
The cranes with working transmitters departed Fairbanks in late August and early September and have followed the identical route they followed last year.
The two birds stopped at a reservoir about 30 miles southwest of Saskatoon, near the Saskatchewan River, for about a month before continuing south.
One of the cranes departed Saskatoon on Oct. 11 and made the 700-mile trip to Nebraska in two days, stopping to spend the night in North Dakota. The crane then flew 442 miles from Nebraska to Texas over the next six days.
The other crane moved from Saskatoon to Nebraska from Oct. 8-13. The bird flew 521 miles from west Nebraska to north Texas over the next five days.
If they stick to last year's route, the cranes should continue south another 150 to 200 miles and end up south of Lubbock, Wright said.
Biologists don't know how much longer the transmitter batteries will hold out. The batteries were supposed to last 12 to 15 months.
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