Partners in Flight
In Georgia, Partners in Flight continued to focus on the 33 priority bird species identified in the State Wildlife Action Plan. Stakeholder meetings in 2008 identified research and survey questions and conservation needs for the species. The information was condensed into a series of programs for landbird conservation funded by a State Wildlife Grant.
Survey work for secretive marsh birds – rails and bitterns – began in 2010. Initial results indicate that these birds may be abundant on some state properties in suitable habitats. Differences in occupancy rates may be due to differing management regimes on otherwise similar sites.
Work on southeastern American kestrels continued during the summer of 2010 and included the first comprehensive population estimate of kestrels in the state. All known populations were surveyed by ground and air. The total population was estimated at about 120 breeding pairs. Intensive work for kestrels on state lands in Taylor and Talbot counties also was continued; however, only 13 nesting attempts were documented, down almost 50 percent from the previous year. A partnership is being initiated between stakeholders in Georgia and Florida to better coordinate management for kestrels and to share information and resources.
DNR formalized the already strong partnership with the Audubon Important Bird Area, entering into a two-year contract with the Georgia IBA coordinator to help with a variety of work on state lands, including native grass restoration and monitoring, loggerhead shrike telemetry, a barn owl box program, and other projects.
Native grass restoration at Joe Kurz Wildlife Management Area and Panola Mountain State Park has proven very successful. Work by DNR and the Georgia IBA, with funding from the Georgia Ornithological Society, is reducing invasive exotic plants and restoring native grasses. In June 2010, the first loggerhead shrike was captured on the restoration site at Joe Kurz WMA. Many other declining grassland birds have since been documented on the restoration sites, species including sedge wren, bobolink, sandhill crane, black rail, eastern meadowlark, northern bobwhite, red-headed woodpecker and Lincoln’s sparrow.
Habitat is also being restored for the only remaining population of golden-winged warblers in Georgia. When completed, the Brawley Mountain project on the Chattahoochee National Forest in Fannin County will provide almost 300 acres of early succession habitat. This controversial project has been in the planning process for more than 10 years. During that time, Georgia’s golden-winged warblers dwindled from five populations to one. DNR and the U.S. Forest Service Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest sponsored and designed the project and will be conducting follow-up surveys in coming years. Adjoining states and national forests are watching the effort with interest, and several have initiated similar projects.
Other 2010 highlights and projects included conducting point counts on sandhill restoration sites across the state, conducting bird surveys in canebrake restoration sites, publication of two peer-reviewed papers, conducting a record number of Breeding Bird surveys, and initiating nightjar surveys.