By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

The storm front that brought colder temperatures into Kansas also brought down several members of the only naturally migrating flock of whooping cranes.

The continued presence of two whooping cranes has prompted the closing of Quivira National Wildlife Refuge to hunting. Two birds had been spotted at Cheyenne Bottoms late last week.

Birders had been anxiously awaiting their arrival.

While it's uncertain how many have stopped over in Kansas, so far there have been only brief delays in the birds' migration south.

Over the past year, Kansas has been witness to unprecedented stops by the cranes.

Just last fall, Quivira and the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area near Great Bend, were witness to an unprecedented stop by the cranes.

Not only were the birds at Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira in total numbers, but they remained on site for nearly a month, sending birding enthusiasts scurrying to get a glimpse.

Quivira spokesman Barry Jones said the presence of the birds was not at all unlike the movie, "Field of Dreams."

People simply came out to the refuge to see the birds, unaware of where they might be or for that matter, what they even looked like.

"They're just caught up in the excitement of the thing," Jones said.

Generally, he said, there's only a small chance of seeing whooping cranes as they migrate south in the fall or back north in the spring. Whoopers overwinter at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in southern Texas and spend the summers at Woods Buffalo National Park in Canada.

Whooping cranes use both Quivira and Cheyenne Bottoms, and to a lesser degree Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge, as a stopping off point when they migrate.

Already, however, a bird has arrived at Aransas and others have been sighted in North Dakota and Oklahoma.

One was even sighted as far off course as Colorado.

"One showed up out there for some odd reason," Jones said, perhaps hooking up with its smaller cousins, the sandhill cranes, on the migration trail. "That's not normal."

Generally, whooping cranes start showing up at Quivira in late October, with peak fall migration stopovers anywhere from Oct. 20 to 30.

Last year, the first whooping crane showed up on Nov. 6, but remained in the area through much of December.

More than 30 birds were on hand last fall at Quivira and Cheyenne Bottoms, and an unprecedented 76 birds were spotted at Quivira on April 1.

Knowing that they could set down anytime, Jones wants people to be on the look out for the birds. Anyone who sees whooping cranes are asked to call the refuge at (620) 486-2393 and provide as many details as possible.

The birds are tracked, as closely as possible, as they migrate in the fall and again in the spring.

Currently, the Aransas-Woods Buffalo flock -- the only remaining naturally migrating flock in the world -- is thought to have 263 birds.

But that doesn't include the record-setting 46 chicks that fledged this spring from 74 nesting pairs.

The chicks won't be added to the total population until they reach Aransas.

All told, there are 407 whooping cranes in the wild and another 167 in captivity.

Eleven cranes have been fitted with GP transmitters and are being tracked by satellite. It's the first tracking on the wild flock in 25 years.