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DNR e-news masthead; photo of whale work
March 2009
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Also in this issue:
* Eagle in Paradise
* Bird box how-to
* Burning a mountain bog
* Twister rips old-growth longleaf

Photo of cardinal in snow
Let it snow
This male cardinal
is weathering the March 1 winter surge that blanketed parts of Georgia from Columbus through Athens with 1-7 inches of snow.

Us 'n YouTube
The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division has its own YouTube channel, joining more than a dozen wildlife agencies across the country that are taking advantage of this popular medium to promote conservation. Georgia's growing playlist features videos on bat research, prescribed fire and coastal issues. Wildlife Resources Assistant Director Todd Holbrook called the addition an exciting move for the division in education and outreach. "Social media reaches a generation of Georgians who don’t always get to hear our conservation messages that have been distributed through more traditional outlets,” Holbrook said. Take a peek!

WILD Facts
Cedar waxwings are one of the most handsome songbirds migrating through Georgia right now. Slightly smaller than a cardinal, these beige, silky-feathered birds sport a crest as well as a dark facial mask and yellow tail tips. Some individuals also have waxy red tips on their wing feathers. Although cedar waxwings live throughout our state in the winter, they head north toward their breeding territory in the spring. Their summer range extends from the North Georgia mountains to across our nation’s midsection and into Canada. If you listen closely, you may hear their high-pitched, lisped trills (listen in) as they travel in flocks, searching for berries and other fruit.
In education
The importance of sandhills will become clearer for Georgia teachers -- and their students -- through a new Wildlife Resources Division campaign boosted by a Wal-Mart Foundation grant. The project has two parts. First, team with educators to translate technical information explaining sandhills and other Coastal Plain habitats into lesson plans and related K-12 curriculum resources. Second, hold an advanced Project WILD workshop to train teachers about the habitats and how to relay key information to students. Wal-Mart has given $33,145 through The Environmental Resources Network Inc., or TERN, which supports Wildlife Resources' Nongame Conservation Section. The technical and Project WILD work is planned for this year. E-mail here for details. The sandhills campaign marks greater awareness of one of the state’s most biologically diverse habitats.

Photo of swallow-tailed kite
Up close
Swallow-tailed kite
Elanoides forficatus
Family: Strikingly marked raptor kin to Mississippi and white-tailed kites. Swallow-tails have also been called fork-tailed kites, scissor-tailed kites and swallow-tailed hawks.
Looks: White head, chest and underwings give way to long, curving black wings and a v-shaped tail. Wingspan: up to 48 inches.
Habitat: In the Southeastern U.S., breeding range is limited to riparian habitats in the Florida peninsula and along large lower Coastal Plain river systems in Georgia and about five other states. The Altamaha River system is Georgia's hotspot.
Status: Population appears stable, if limited. Swallow-tailed kites once nested in 21 states but abruptly declined in the early 1900s probably due to shooting, land-use changes and logging of tall loblolly pines and other big river-bottom trees favored for nesting. (The species has high nest site fidelity; it doesn't colonize other areas easily.) The kites now nest in a handful of Southeastern states. U.S. breeding population estimated at 800-1,200 pairs. State-listed in Georgia as rare.
Wide-ranging: Winters in South America, with Georgia birds leaving in August for lands as far south as Brazil. Some return to South Georgia in March. Florida has the largest U.S. population. In late summer 2008, a few swallow-tailed kites were spotted circling over fields in Atlanta-area counties, a rare sight.
Fast food: Often eats on the wing, nabbing insects such as June bugs and dragonflies in flight. Occasionally snatches small snakes or young birds from trees.
Aerial acrobats: These kites rarely flap their wings, but soar in looping to tight circles, turning their tails almost 90 degrees to help stay on course.
Georgia research: A Swallow-tailed Kite Initiative by the Nongame Conservation Section monitored 203 nests from 1999-2006. Altamaha River floodplain nests appeared more successful than those in smaller river systems such as the Satilla. Some kites were tracked by radio and satellite telemetry.
Next: Preservation of areas capable of supporting kites, including roosting and nesting sites, is critical. Forestry and other private lands are crucial.
Quotable: "What a show it put on -- often soaring with the many red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks we have up here, and occasionally fighting with them." Vicki DeLoach of a swallow-tailed kite seen for days last August in Cherokee County.
Sources: Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Legislative update
Two bills aimed at regulating the take and trade of freshwater turtles in Georgia are dead until 2010 after failing to make it out of either General Assembly chamber by March 12. The so-called crossover day -- the 30th day of the 40-day session -- is when bills must pass at least one chamber to be considered that session. Senate Bill 203 and House Bill 603 were introduced to protect turtles from commercial harvest born by Asian demand and a global pet trade ("Insight sought on turtle harvest," July-August 2008). Thirteen of 19 freshwater species in the state can be killed or sold without limit. Most turtles in international markets come from the Southeast. SB203 and HB603 would have removed freshwater turtles from the "unlucky 14" -- a list of wildlife that can be harvested without limit -- and let the Board of Natural Resources govern their take, possession, transport and sale. Landowners could have harvested turtles from their ponds but within limits that stemmed the trade that worries conservationists.
* S.C. turtle legislation.
* Florida measures proposed.
* Ban called for in eight states.

Ranger reports
Skullduggery? Toru Shimoji of Smyrna was sentenced last month in federal court on misdemeanor charges involving the illegal possession of wildlife skulls. A search of Shimoji’s home turned up more than 45 skulls of endangered and other protected animals ranging from songbirds to primates, lions and even a whale. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation, which included the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in serving the search warrant, began in December 2007 when Shimoji bought the carcass of an endangered snow leopard from an undercover agent over the Internet. In addition to forfeiting all wildlife seized, he was fined $15,000 and placed on probation for two years.
Out with the owl: The owner of a mounted owl earned a written warning Feb. 25 from Cpl. Eric Sanders. The owl was confiscated.

Nongame in the news
* Savannah Morning News: "Whale tranquilized, cut free of entanglement," about historic use of sedation to help free an entangled right whale. (March 12)
* Audubon Magazine: "Bad news, good news," about status of bobwhite quail and how quail conservation is not "a single-species issue." (March-April issue)
* Tifton Gazette: "Injured eagle to be released Sunday," about Auburn's Southeastern Raptor Center release at Paradise Public Fishing Area of rehabilitated bald eagle found hurt there in the fall. (March 7)
* NBC Nightly News: "No whale of a time for these guys," about right whale disentanglement efforts including DNR along Georgia, Florida coasts. (March 2) Newscast. Longer online version.
* Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Natural beauty still has its spots," Charles Seabrook column about a botanically rich Grady County tract that the Georgia Land Conservation Program and others are trying to acquire. (March 1)
* Cedarcrest Connection (Marietta-area magazine): "Sniff, wag, sit, snake!" DNR release about conservation dog used by Project Orianne to find eastern indigos. (pages 14-15, March issue)
* Savannah Morning News (and others via AP): "Tybee beach too tough for turtles," about need to till renourished Tybee Island to suit nesting for loggerhead sea turtles. (Feb. 27)
* Barrow County News: "Young artists needed for contest," Linda May WILD Fact about Give Wildlife a Chance and Youth Birding Competition T-shirt Art contests. (Feb. 27)
* Coosa Valley News: "DNR to help ease kestrel housing crunch," DNR release about partnership including Flint Energies EMC to put up needed Southeastern kestrel boxes on state lands in Taylor County. (Feb. 24)
* Augusta Chronicle: "Turtle traffickers continue to target South Carolina," about Asian markets' impact on S.C.'s wild turtle populations and legislation to curb the trade across state lines. (Feb. 22)
* Foster Folly News (Washington County, Fla.): "Want to help the painted bunting?" about a University of North Carolina Wilmington project monitoring painted buntings and needing volunteers in Florida. (Feb. 19)
* CNN: "Volunteers, scientists guard endangered whales," about a Whale Watch Survey Team scanning for right whales in Florida. (Feb. 19)
* Naturally Fayette blog: "New birding boot camp geared to teens June 14-19," DNR release about camp TALON (Teen Adventures Learning about Ornithology and Nature). (Feb. 18)
* The (Kings Bay) Periscope: "Environmentalists visit Kings Bay," about Weekend for Wildlife trip to the naval  base. (Feb. 16)
* Red and Black: "UGA wins $6.7 million grant to research in Appalachia," about National Science Foundation grant to group headed by UGA to study climate change and urbanization impacts in southern Appalachians. (Feb. 16)
* Augusta Chronicle: "Seagulls make return to area," about ring-billed gulls flocking to Augusta area. (Feb. 14)
* Boston Globe: "Record number of entangled rare whales this winter," about five whales seen tangled in fishing gear off Georgia, Florida. (Feb. 13)
* (Jacksonville, Fla.) (and others via AP): "Right whale freed from ropes off coast of Georgia," about a successful disentanglement. (Feb. 13)
* The News-Reporter (Washington, Ga.): "Income tax checkoff, license plate purchases provide funds for wildlife conservation projects," DNR release about nongame fundraisers. (Feb. 12)
* The Atlanta-Journal Constitution: "Key to reviving Georgia’s chestnut trees may lie in the past," about senior biologist Nathan Klaus' work using records to document the historic range of chestnuts. (Feb. 11)
* WSAV-TV (Savannah, Hilton Head): "Wal-Mart Foundation grant will spur sandhill education," about donation to TERN supporting DNR sandhills education initiative. (Feb. 9)
* Dawson Times: "Land conservation program surpasses 100,000 acres," about the Georgia Land Conservation Program reaching the acreage milestone since 2005. (Feb. 3)
* "Georgia tax checkoff provides for wildlife," DNR release about the Give Wildlife a Chance state income tax checkoff. (Feb. 3)

Upcoming "Outdoors"
"Georgia Outdoors" is shown on GPB channels at 9:30 p.m. Fridays, noon and 6 p.m. Saturdays, and 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays (except when other programming intervenes). Click for schedule on GPB Knowledge.
* Monuments of the Past, 7:30 p.m. March 24.
* License to Fish, 9:30 p.m. March 27, noon and 6 p.m. March 28, 7:30 p.m. March 31.
* Ocmulgee River Watershed, 9:30 p.m. April 3, noon and 6 p.m. April 4, 7:30 p.m. April 7
* Kayaking, 9:30 p.m. April 10, noon and 6 p.m. April 11, 7:30 p.m. April 14

March 20-21: Fitzgerald Wild Chicken Festival, downtown Fitzgerald.
March 24-25: Georgia DNR Board of Natural Resources committee meetings (1 p.m. March 24), monthly meeting (9 a.m. March 25), DNR board room, Atlanta.
March 28: Earth Hour, World Wildlife Fund event turning out the lights for an hour starting at 8:30 p.m.
April 4: Open house at Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Newtown.
April 25: Kickoff to highlight new exhibits, including amphibian display, Georgia Southern University Center for Wildlife Education. (912) 478-7482.
April 25-26: Youth Birding Competition. Ends at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, Mansfield.
April 27-29: Georgia Water Resources Conference, UGA Center for Continuing Education, Athens.
April 28-29: Georgia DNR Board of Natural Resources committee meetings (1 p.m. April 28), monthly meeting (9 a.m. April 29), DNR board room, Atlanta.
May 15-16: Wet and Wild Amphibians workshop (four sessions) 6:30-11 p.m. May 15, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. May 16, Georgia Southern University Center for Wildlife Education.
June 20-26: Paddle Georgia 2009 (Coosawattee and Oostanaula rivers).
Submit items.

Photo credits (from top):
** Right whale disentanglement. Wildlife Trust
** Cardinal in snow. Linda May/Ga. DNR
** Rhododendron burning in bog. Kristina Summers/Ga. DNR
** Swallow-tailed kite. Todd Schneider/Ga. DNR
** Naturalist Wilson Baker eyes longleaf pine storm damage in Thomas County. Phil Spivey/Ga. DNR
** Red-cockaded woodpecker. Phillip Jordan
**Tyler Eads, with eagle, of Auburn Raptor Center and DNR's Matt Henry. Bert Deener/Ga. DNR 
** Bluebird house with hole guard. Terry Johnson
** Frog from "NATURE Frogs: The Thin Green Line." Andrew Young/Thirteen/WNET New York
** Sawnee EMC putting up martin house pole. Andy Wentworth/Ga. DNR

Georgia Wild
volume 2, issue 3

   Georgia Wild is produced by the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division and focused on conserving nongame species, those not legally trapped, fished for or hunted. The newsletter is delivered free to subscribers. Subscribe or see archive issues.
   Wildlife Resources' Nongame Conservation Section conserves and protects Georgia's diversity of native animals and plants and their habitats through research, management and education. The section receives no state funds, depending on grants, donations and fundraisers such as nongame license plate sales, the Give Wildlife a Chance state income tax checkoff and Weekend for Wildlife. Call (770) 761-3035 for details on direct donations. The nongame plates -- the bald eagle/U.S. flag and ruby-throated hummingbird -- are available for a one-time $25 fee at all county tag offices, by checking the wildlife license plate box on mail-in registration forms or through online renewal.
Photo of wildlife tags

In a first, crews use sedation
to help untangle right whale

DNR part of historic effort involving whales in the wild
  Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Team members used sedation in removing commercial fishing gear from a severely entangled north Atlantic right whale this month (photograph above). This marked the first time a large, free-swimming whale had been successfully sedated in the wild, according to NOAA Fisheries Service and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
   The implications are immediate -- whale No. 3311 is 90-percent gear-free -- and far-reaching. Successful sedation can provide safer working conditions for humans and whales such as the highly endangered right whales, and decrease the time crews invest in pursuing and attempting to rescue entangled whales, according to NOAA.
   A Georgia Department of Natural Resources crew had removed 560 feet of trailing rope from the whale and attached a tracking buoy after a Wildlife Trust survey plane spotted the animal off the Georgia coast Jan. 14. Follow-up tries were made Jan. 22 and 23, Feb. 1, and March 5, but the whale proved elusive. ("Disentangling whales," February 2009).
   On March 6, No. 3311, nicknamed Bridle because of the gear wrapped around its head, was off Daytona Beach, Fla. Crews administered the sedative then were able to safely approach the whale and remove an additional 380 feet of line, raising the odds that Bridle could live to see another year.
   Disentanglement team and veterinarian partners included NOAA Fisheries Service, Georgia DNR, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Coastwise Consulting Inc., Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the University of Florida, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, New England Aquarium, Wildlife Trust and the U.S. Coast Guard.
   * Video and photographs.
   * Season stats: Winter 2008-09 has been a hallmark season for right whales, with 40 calves counted through early March. The previous high on record: 31 in 2001. Entanglement numbers rose dramatically, with five whales reported. The average is 1-2 per season. After disentanglement attempts, three have been spotted gear-free; the fourth (above) is 90-percent free. In all, a high success rate for the imperiled species.  

Earth, wind and fire
An elemental update on nongame around the state.

Fire ...
Prescribed burn helps restore North Georgia mountain bog
   Trekking uphill through charred, smoking underbrush, Nomex-clad workers push their way into one of North Georgia’s last remaining mountain bogs. Time is short. The crew works quickly. Drip torches leave Photo of burning rhododendron.bright orange trails of fire around piles of rhododendron. Soon, flames shoot upward.
   At last, fire has come to this bog.
   During the prescribed burn last month, Georgia Wildlife Resources Division biologist Thomas Floyd explained that the area hadn’t been “disturbed” for years. Yet at one time, said Floyd, “fire probably came through here on occasion, creeping over the bog and helping to open up the area for sunlight.”
   Burning the bog was important to continue its restoration, started in the early 1990s, according to Mike Brod of the U.S. Forest Service. “Fire is important because it kills back the encroaching vegetation around the periphery of the bog … allowing the nourishing sunlight into the bog, thus enhancing the bog plants,” Brod said.
   The bog plants here include the last known native population of mountain purple pitcherplants in Georgia. Shade from hardwoods and rhododendron had kept them from flowering. But in 1998, after much hard work by conservationists, the pitcherplants in one area of the small bog flowered. In 2002, restoration workers found seedlings, a hallmark of habitat restoration success.
   Floyd said fire is a needed tool for managing this and other mountain bogs, one of the southern Appalachians’ most endangered habitats and a priority in the Georgia State Wildlife Action Plan. Fire “allowed for the removal of piles of woody debris that had been previously cleared by hand. The intensity of the fire also killed back much of the rhododendron that was encroaching upon the bog,” he said. Read more.
   * Fire on the Mountain! -- the annual celebration of efforts to conserve rare montane longleaf pine habitat using prescribed fire at Sprewell Bluff State Park -- starts at noon Saturday, March 21, at the park near Thomaston. Rainy weather postponed the event from March 14. Watch a 2008 Rx burn at Sprewell Bluff Natural Area (under "Conservation" playlist).

Photo of tornado damage.
Wind ...
Twister wallops red-cockaded woodpecker habitat
By Phil Spivey
   Longleaf pine forests usually occur in uneven-aged stands, with regeneration of younger trees occurring in canopy gaps created by some disturbance.
   The morning of Feb. 19, that disturbance was a tornado that ripped through southwest Georgia’s Red Hills region, home to some of the best remaining old-growth longleaf stands. The result: significant damage to this rare habitat type and the population of federally endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers it supports.
Photo of red-cockaded woodpecker   The tornado touched down in eastern Grady County, cutting a 500-yard wide swath for more than eight miles into Thomas County and across several historic properties. Myrtlewood and Sinkola plantations were hard-hit. About 200 acres of true old-growth longleaf was erased from the landscape, along with four clusters of red cockaded woodpeckers.
   These clusters had 27 cavity trees before the storm. Afterward, one was left standing. Read more.
   * Ft. Stewart woodpeckers for Moody: Teams of biologists from Fort Stewart and the DNR spread out into the pine woods of the Army base on Feb. 11. Equipped with long-handled nets and color band data, they wanted to identify selected juvenile red-cockaded woodpeckers as they returned to their roost cavities, then capture up to three of the birds for translocation to Moody Forest Natural Area. The mission: Keep Moody Forest’s population of the endangered birds from disappearing. The number of red-cockaded woodpeckers there couldn’t sink much lower. It was down to one. The search at Stewart proved successful. Read more.

Photo of eagle release
Earth (or soaring above it)
Rehabilitated bald eagle returned to Paradise
   This bald eagle wasn’t looking back. Released by Brittany Way of Auburn University’s Southeastern Raptor Center, the big bird plowed its wings into the slight breeze sweeping across Paradise Lake, leaving behind the crowd of about 50 people who gathered at Paradise Public Fishing Area on March 8 to see the eagle returned to the wild.
   One of those people was DNR’s Matt Henry, who found and helped capture the 2- to 3-year-old bird on Nov. 19 at the PFA near Tifton. The eagle was hurt. Radiographs done by the Raptor Center confirmed it had been shot. The bullet bruised the collar bone and grazed the bone near the (left) shoulder,” Raptor Center Director Jaime Bellah said.
   The damage was mostly to soft tissue. The eagle, Bellah said, “was lucky.”
   DNR personnel took the eagle to the Raptor Center, where staff treated, rehabilitated and then returned it on a blue-sky day to the south Georgia PFA known for big bass as well as bald eagle sightings.
   Bert Deener, regional fisheries supervisor with the Wildlife Resources Division, said all of his region’s four public fishing areas are popular with eagles. “Same reason that anglers like them,” he added, smiling. “They've got lots of fish!”
   * A better eagle estimate: Aerial monitoring of nesting bald eagles over the last two to three decades has documented the species’ amazing recovery. But this nesting season Georgia was part of federal research to more accurately estimate the nation’s eagle population and help scientists better detect significant changes. Read more.

What makes a great nest box?
By Terry W. Johnson
   Thinking about buying or building a nesting box? Here are a few tips to get the most for your time and money, and provide a safe place for birds to nest for years.
   Materials: Top-of-the-line boxes are made from cypress, redwood or cedar boards ¾ inches thick. These woods resist rotting. A cypress box will remain usable for 25 years or more. An unpainted pine box will last only a few years. The thick boards also help keep the interior cool even on the hottest days.
   Avoid treated wood. Some chemicals used can produce poisonous vapors when exposed to water.
Photo of bird house   Fasteners: Brass screws are best, though rarely used. If nails are used, they should be ribbed or twisted and aluminum, zinc-clad, copper, stainless steel or galvanized. These will not rust and will resist working loose. Board joints should be treated with exterior wood adhesive.
Steer clear of boxes fastened with staples. Such boxes rarely last more than a few years.
   Design: Box sides should enclose the floor, which should be recessed at least a quarter-inch to prevent water seepage. The roof should be gently sloping, overhanging the entrance hole at least 3 inches to prevent water from blowing in.   
   The box should have four or five 3/8-inch drainage holes in the bottom to drain away any water that collects inside. Speaking of  holes, it’s also a good idea to bore at least two 5/8-inch ventilation holes on the top right and left sides of the box. They will help keep the interior cool.
   A well-designed box has a top or side that can be easily lifted to check for use and cleaning. If a side swings out or a top opens on hinges, the best hinges are made of brass or stainless steel.
   If finished boards are used, the interior wood below the entrance hole should be roughened or cut with grooves to aid young birds trying to climb out for their first flight.
   Exterior finishes: There’s no need to paint or treat cypress boxes. Boxes of spruce or pine will last five to 15 years when treated with an exterior finish.
   For wood preservatives, try linseed oil (excellent but should be reapplied annually) or clear (No. 20) or green (No. 10) Cuprinol. Use liberal amounts on the back of the box, where it's more susceptible to rot.
   The exterior can be painted with oil-based and latex paints. Use light colors; they keep the interior cooler in hot weather. Never paint the interior.
   After you buy or make a nesting box, I strongly recommend adding an entrance hole guard. Otherwise, odds are great that a flying squirrel will enlarge the unguarded hole, gnawing that can destroy the box.
   A poorly designed box made of the wrong materials may cost less, however it won’t last long and can actually be a death trap for nesting adult birds and their young. A topnotch nesting box, on the other hand, will last for years and will be used to produce generations of birds.
  It’s your choice. I hope you choose wisely.
  Read Terry’s full column.

Terry Johnson is a former Nongame program manager with the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, a noted backyard wildlife writer and expert, and executive director of TERN, the friends group for Wildlife Resources' Nongame Conservation Section.

   Georgia’s gopher frogs will have a part in a PBS Nature program scheduled for national broadcast at 8 p.m. April 5. “Frogs: The Thin Green Line” (photo below) focuses on the decline in amphibians, largely due to a deadly fungus called chytrid.
Photo of frog   ’Tis the season for the Give Wildlife a Chance state income tax checkoff. In fiscal year 2008, the checkoff -- line 26 of Form 500 or line 10 on Form 500EZ -- made up nearly 9 percent of funds raised for the state’s Nongame Wildlife Conservation and Wildlife Habitat Acquisition Fund.
   As part of the focus on native grasses, invasive plants and the decline of grassland birds, the Georgia Important Bird Areas program is leading a privet “pull” with the DNR at Joe Kurz Wildlife Management Area (pdf) in Meriwether County. Time and date: 1 p.m. April 18, following a bird banding starting 6:30 that morning. For more.
   A return trip to dive for gravid Altamaha River spinymussels Feb. 18 ("Study's aim: Solve mystery of spinymussels," November 2008) turned up four of the mussels tagged in October, but none had eggs. Wildlife biologist Jason Wisniewski and others found different mussel species with eggs, suggesting that spinies might follow soon, the key to a project with the University of Georgia to identify host fish used by the rare mussels’ larvae.
   Workshops held in part by the Wildlife Resources Division are spreading the word about conservation easements, associated tax benefits and landowner incentives. A Feb. 12 workshop in Guyton drew about 32 landowners, while others have been held in Hawkinsville and Newtown. For more.
   The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that two Georgia construction companies have been fined $75,000 for lending equipment used to destroy an eagle's nest and its tree in a Florida subdivision. "If you mess with an eagle or its nest, you'll be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigator said.
   See how the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center in Newtown works during a 10 a.m.-2 p.m. open house on April 4. Activities include presentations, tours of Ichauway’s landscape and research areas, and activities for children.
   Test your skills with the latest bird identification quiz in Georgia’s Young Birder, a DNR e-newsletter for the annual Youth Birding Competition.
   That’s “Captain” to you: Kate Sparks, Mark Dodd, Adam Mackinnon and Clay George, all members of the Nongame Conservation Section staff at the Brunswick office, earned the title of captain after completing training and testing requirements.
   Recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports include: the five-year status review of 11 federally protected Mobile River Basin mussels in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee; the large PDF “Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Eastern United States: 1998-2004,” and changes that split the classification of flatwoods salamander into two species and designated 27,423 acres across three states as critical habitat.
   Mark your calendars for Earth Hour at 8:30 p.m. March 28. That’s when the world is asked to turn off the lights for an hour for the World Wildlife Fund event, which has more than 1,000 cities promising to flip the switch on non-essential lighting in public buildings.
    Project FeederWatch reports that pine siskins are visiting more feeders and in larger flocks than last winter. Updates.
   The spring 2009 Georgia Sound newsletter (pdf) from DNR's Coastal Resources Division covers beach development, research on rising sea levels and some eye-catching photographs of Ossabaw Island alligators.
   Watch video of the seminar titled "Apocalypse Meow: Free-ranging Cats and the Destruction of American Wildlife"  or an overview of Project Orianne: the Indigo Snake Initiative at UGA's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources' site.
   Take a Nature Conservancy audio slideshow that tours Vermont’s Mount Aeolus cave in discussing the mysterious white nose syndrome that’s killing bats across the Northeast.
   A new Ocean Conservancy report breaks the group’s 2008 International Coastal Cleanup Day into results by country and state, all 6.8 million pounds of it. “A Rising Tide of Ocean Debris and What We Can Do About It” also sifts impacts of trash on wildlife and the ocean’s ecosystems.
  The only known jaguar living in the wild in the U.S. was euthanized earlier this month after biologists determined it suffered from terminal kidney failure. Dubbed Macho B, the 15- to 16-year-old jaguar had been fitted with a radio collar about two weeks earlier after being caught in a wildlife trap in Arizona.
   In the realm of global warming, the National Wildlife Federation says in a new report that global warming is undermining the Southeast’s water supply. Meanwhile, a National Audubon Society study shows that more than half of the nation’s birds now winter at least 35 miles north of where they did four decades ago.

Photo of martin pole going up
Parting shot
Some electric membership corporations are giving wildlife projects a boost. Sawnee EMC planted an old power pole for a new purple martin house along the Lincoln’s Sparrow Trail at Buford Trout Hatchery near Buford. A small colony had filled to capacity the existing house. Hatchery staff will string up a line and set out additional gourds, hopefully to accommodate more martins, which are winging their way to Georgia from wintering grounds in South America. At Fall Line Sandhills Natural Area and a nearby state-owned tract in Taylor County, Flint Energies EMC put up 10 power poles and wildlife biologists added nest boxes to ease a middle Georgia housing shortage for southeastern American kestrels. The boxes are part of a project restoring populations of the small falcon, which is state-listed as rare. Nest boxes added earlier helped increase local kestrel numbers from six nesting pairs a few years ago to more than 20.

Coming next month
* Monitoring amphibians
* Painted buntings
* Granite outcrops

Previous issues
* February 2009
* January 2009
* December 2008


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