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October 2009

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Also in this issue
* Maintaining mountain bogs
* Flowers birds favor
* Bat search results

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Give wildlife a chance
* Buy a wildlife license plate.
* Contribute to the tax checkoff.
* Donate directly to the Nongame Conservation Section.
Each option supports the Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state funds to conserve Georgia’s nongame wildlife, native plants and natural habitats. Details: (770) 761-3035.

WILD Facts
Why do leaves change color in the fall? Shorter days and cooler weather trigger “hibernation” in deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves). Water and nutrients are shut off from the leaves in order to store energy in the branches and trunk for the winter. Chlorophyll, the compound that makes leaves green, then becomes depleted, allowing one or more other leaf compounds to show color. Carotene produces yellow, orange and brown leaves while anthocyanin gives leaves a red or purple hue. The increased level of stored sugars and proteins in the trunk also acts as an antifreeze to protect the tree from cold temperatures.
Phhoto: cogongrass, by Bill Lamp/GFC
In education

Chinese privet, kudzu, cogongrass: These and other alien invaders from the plant realm are for real in Georgia. Educators who want to teach their students about exotic invasive plants can turn to the Georgia Exotic Plant Pest Council. The council’s Web site offers k-12 curriculum and activities aimed at raising awareness about the impact of invasives. The state chapter of the Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council says teachers can use these tools to “help students develop a sense of stewardship for our wild places.” Other resources include the newly completed Georgia Invasive Species Strategy, which covers problems and possible actions involving invasive plants and animals in Georgia, and the 2009 Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council's Annual Symposium, Nov. 5 at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens.

D.C. talk
Good news for State Wildlife Grants. A compromise over House and Senate differences in the new Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act will raise fiscal year 2010 funding for State and Tribal Wildlife Grants to $90 million, $15 million more than last year. Appropriators also agreed to cut the nonfederal match required for grants from 50 to 35 percent for implementation projects, according to the Teaming With Wildlife coalition. The match reduction is a first, and the funding is the most ever for State Wildlife Grants, the key funding source for State Wildlife Action Plan projects. Georgia is due a raise: The state was budgeted $1.6 million for fiscal 2009. Final passage in Congress is expected soon.
As for another conservation initiative, there is bipartisan support for making enhanced tax deductions for conservation easement donations permanent, via HR 1831 and S 812. The Land Trust Alliance says the easements have conserved at least 535,000 acres since 2006, allowing moderate-income landowners to protect land while receiving tax benefits for easements. For information on conservation easements in Georgia, call (770) 761-3043.

Georgia aster photo

Up close
Georgia aster
Symphyotrichum georgianum
Also called: Aster georgianus or Aster patens var. georgianus.
Family: Asteraceae (Aster/composite family).
Key characteristics: This Colonial perennial herb reaches eight to 60 inches tall, with 2-inch-wide flower heads with rays ranging from bright violet to dark, reddish purple. The disk flowers are a reddish purple. Thick, hairy green leaves with pointed tips alternately clasp the stem.
Range: Scattered locations in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. Most remaining populations are on private land; a small percentage are on federal lands. Most Georgia populations are in the upper Piedmont.
Habitat: Oak-pine-hickory woodlands and Piedmont grasslands, old fields and other open, historically fire-prone habitats. Also found in thin soils around granitic flatrocks. The extreme rarity of this habitat has relegated Georgia aster largely to forest edges, utility rights of way and roadsides.
Reproduction: Self-sterile flowers bloom from late September through mid-November. Flowers from separate genetic stock (not in the same colony) are required for sexual reproduction. Most reproduction is, therefore, vegetative. Viable fruits are dry, hairy seeds 1/8-of-an-inch long.
Status: Threatened in Georgia with less than 20 populations believed extant, or not lost. Most are quite small; many are in poor condition. Eight occur on public lands. Also listed as threatened in North Carolina. Considered a candidate for federal listing. NatureServe rates the species imperiled at global and state levels.
Threats: Habitat alteration and loss, and prolonged and widespread lack of fire. Georgia aster colonies along
roads and in rights of way are also subject to invasive exotic species such as kudzu, highway expansion, quarrying and herbicide application. Rather than mowing, many utility companies and railroads use herbicides to better control vegetation. Surviving Georgia asters in an area may be from a single clone, and unable to produce viable seed.
Conservation: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is encouraging landowner cooperation to protect and manage Georgia aster populations. The U.S. Forest Service has agreed to conduct prescribed burns on some of their sites. In addition to prescribed burning in the winter or early spring, mowing will help maintain openings. Soil disturbance and herbicides should be avoided and exotic species eradicated. Avoid clearcutting. 
Conservation in Georgia: The Nongame Conservation Section, in cooperation with the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, is restoring Georgia aster habitat and populations throughout the Piedmont. A robust population in Paulding County at Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site is being managed through mowing and prescribed fire to maintain high-quality open meadow habitat. Several new populations have been established as safeguarding sites on Forest Service land near Currahee Mountain in Stephens County ("Currahee gets rare plants," December 2008). The sites are part of an ambitious Piedmont woodland restoration project that includes thinning of woody competition and the reintroduction of prescribed fire into fire-suppressed habitats. Additional outplantings at Currahee are planned, as well as new restoration and safeguarding projects at Broad River Wildlife Management Area in Elbert County and Wilson Shoals WMA in Banks County. The Nature Conservancy is working with Georgia Power, DNR and others in the GPCA to improve a population found at Goat Rock Reservoir in 2008.

Sources: "Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Georgia" (Linda G. Chafin), "Flora of North America," "Flora of the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia and Surrounding Areas," Georgia Wildlife Federation, NatureServe, "Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians," "Wildflowers of the Southeastern U.S."

Sea Turtle.org image

Tracking sea turtles
A wrap on the Georgia sea turtle nesting season from www.seaturtle.org.*

False crawls: 1,482
Nests: 1,003 (59 lost)
Relocated: 491 (49%)
Eggs estimate: 109,048
Eggs lost: 6,310 (5.7%)
Eggs hatched: 66,512
Emerged hatchlings: 60,785
Hatch success: 61.5%
Emergence success: 56.2%

Here's a complete look at real-time data and beach-by-beach reports. With the nesting season over, this is last installment of this feature for 2009. 
*As of Oct. 26.

Nongame in the news
WDEF 12 (Chattanooga): "Aquarium crew works to save darters in North Georgia," about effort involving DNR, Conasauga River Alliance and the Tennessee Aquarium to improve a Murray County stream for at-risk fish. (Oct. 13)
The Sun News (Warner Robins): "Research shows unusualness of Oaky Woods’ chalk prairies, forests," about unique habitat, plant species on Middle Georgia WMA. (Oct. 12)
WMGT 41 (Macon): "Let's talk bats," interview with Nongame biologist Trina Morris about bats' natural role. (Oct. 12)
Rome News-Tribune: "Northeast Georgia reservoir would transfer water from Etowah River," about concerns that proposed Dawson County reservoir would impact Rome's water source. (Oct. 8) Related Birmingham News story: "Alabama worries Atlanta will solve water crisis by tapping Coosa River too deeply." (Sept. 29)
The Women's Outdoor Wire: "Mighty giants survive first year in the woods," The American Chestnut Foundation release about planting (with U.S. Forest Service, University of Tennessee) blight-resistant chestnuts in 2008 in national forests in N.C., Tennessee and Virginia. (Oct. 7)
Savannah Morning News: "Corps outlines remedies for deepening's effects," about Army Corps of Engineer mitigation plans for deepening Savannah harbor. (Oct. 7) Related Augusta Chronicle story: "Harbor project could benefit Lock & Dam." (Oct. 8)
Florida Times-Union: "With choice of assignments, interns pick Jekyll turtle center," about increase in interns with AmeriCorps grant to Georgia Sea Turtle Center. (Oct. 5)
First Coast News (and others via AP): "Low turtle count not unusual," about average year for sea turtle nesting along Georgia coast. (Oct. 4) Florida Times-Union story.
Protecting Our Environment (blog): "Georgia mountain bog turtle," posting DNR's YouTube bog turtle video with biologist Thomas Floyd. (Oct. 4)
New York Times: "Southeast drought study ties water shortage to population, not global warming," about Columbia University researchers' analysis of region's 2005-2007 drought. (Oct. 1)
WTVM: "Conservation volunteers rappel a cliff along Goat Rock Dam," about workday with Georgia Power, The Nature Conservancy and DNR to weed out privet, other invasives for benefit of rare plants at reservoir near Columbus. (Sept. 30)
Brown's Guide to Georgia: Profile of The Nature Conservancy's Broxton Rocks Preserve as a family vacation site in south-central Georgia. (Sept. 29)
Florida Times-Union: "Study: Bass showing hormone issue," about U.S. Geological Survey project that found 1-in-5 largemouth bass tested with "intersex" features. (Sept. 28)
Savannah Morning News: "Southeastern coral gets new protection," about South Atlantic Fishery Management Council decision to prohibit bottom trawling in area including deep sea coral from North Carolina to Florida. (Sept. 20)
Buckmasters.com: "Bats -- kept outside -- fill critical roles in nature," DNR release about proper treatment of bats in buildings. (September)
Youngbucksoutdoors.com: "The praying predator," Linda May WILD Fact about praying mantises. (September)
BBC: "Blue butterfly colonies thriving," about comeback of formerly extirpated butterfly in Britain and the insect's critical link to an ant species. (June 16)

Oct. 31: Georgia Important Bird Area event: Bird banding, grass seed collection 1 p.m. at Panola Mountain State Park, Stockbridge.
Nov. 1-4: Annual Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies conference, Atlanta.
Nov. 5: Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council symposium "Meeting the challenges of invasive non-native plants," State Botanical Garden, Athens.
Nov. 7: Georgia Important Bird Area event: Grass seed collection 10 a.m. at Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site, Dallas.
Dec. 1-2: Georgia DNR Board of Natural Resources committee meetings (Dec. 1), monthly meeting (Dec. 2), DNR board room, Atlanta.
Dec. 5: Right Whale Festival, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sea Walk Pavilion, Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
Submit items.

Photo credits (from top):
* (Masthead) Screech owl. Bill Dunson
Golden-winged warbler. Pierre Howard
* Cogongrass. Bill Lamp/Georgia Forestry Commission
* Rafinesque's big-eared bat in hollow tree at Moody Forest Natural Area. Ga. DNR
* Georgia aster. Michele Elmore/The Nature Conservancy
* Female cardinal eating four o'clock seeds. Terry Johnson
Work crew poses after clearing part of a North Georgia mountain bog.  Kristina Summers/Ga. DNR
A restored mountain bog. Kristina Summers/Ga. DNR
Nongame Conservation Section booth featuring frogs at CoastFest draws a crowd. Kristina Summers/Ga. DNR
* Caterpillar of eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly. Bill Dunson

Georgia Wild
volume 2, issue 10

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 previous 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 depends for funding 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 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.

Also, check here for information on TERN, the friends group of the Nongame Conservation Section.

Looking back
Links to three previous issues.

September 2009
August 2009
July 2009

Other archives found here.

Project sees brighter future
for Georgia's golden-wings

Photo of golden-winged warbler

DNR, Forest Service aim to improve habitat
   The golden-winged warbler once had it good in the Southern Appalachians. Regular fires left behind the blend of thick, brushy areas beside native grasses and wildflowers the warblers needed for foraging and nesting. After governments reined in the natural fires, logging kept the habitat available in the upper elevations favored by these diminutive birds splashed with bright-yellow highlights.
   But populations in the Southern Appalachians have been in a tailspin since logging on national forests almost ground to a stop and the region’s small farms faded, changes that sapped the species’ habitat. Golden-wings are now a federal species of concern and a high-priority bird in Georgia’s Wildlife Action Plan. Only about 12 pairs of golden-wings are documented as still nesting in this state.
   All of which is why a newly approved Georgia Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Forest Service project is seen as a lifeline for golden-wings here. The plan, shaped by years of negotiations over environmental concerns, is to restore open oak woodlands through selective logging, controlled burns and herbicide use on 400 acres of Brawley Mountain, a Chattahoochee National Forest site and the state’s last holdout for breeding golden-wings. Nathan Klaus, a senior biologist with the DNR Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section, and wildlife biologist Jim Wentworth of the Forest Service’s Blue Ridge Ranger District hope to create habitat the birds need in the upper Appalachian elevations where they live.
   “This is for the future,” Klaus said. “We need to get the population back that is going to be there for our great-great-grandchildren.”
   Selective logging will create an open woodland, with the contract covering project costs. Low-intensity, prescribed burns and limited herbicide use will help maintain the habitat.
   Wentworth said Brawley’s golden-wings responded to forest canopy openings created by Hurricane Opal in 1995, plus some salvage logging and controlled burns. “We’re just trying to replicate that (landscape) on a larger scale,” he said.
   Success is a long-term deal, Klaus suggested. “Maybe on my deathbed I’ll ask if the golden-winged is still in Georgia,’ he said, laughing.
   He credited the National Audubon Society’s Georgia Important Bird Areas program and state coordinator Charlie Muise for helping get the project approved.

Golden-wings: at a glance

  • Small (4.25 inches long), active bird.
  • Markings on mature males include yellow forehead, black mask (with white underneath) and yellow patches on wings.
  • Eats insects (mostly moth caterpillars) and spiders.
  • Breeds near ground in shrub areas along forest edges. Winters in tropical forests.
  • Only 12 breeding pairs documented in Georgia, all in Chattahoochee National Forest’s Brawley Mountain between Dahlonega and Suches.
  • Species is declining across its range due to habitat loss and expansion of blue-winged warblers. Listed as a federal species of concern and a high-priority species per Georgia’s Wildlife Action Plan. Golden-wings are expanding into the Northwest.
  • “Mated” males sing a different song, making the location of breeding pairs easier.
  • Quotable: “They’d make terrible poker players.” (Nathan Klaus, referring to how singing males often stop and look toward where their mate's nest is.)
Sources: Georgia DNR; Cornell Lab of Ornithology; USGS

Bat search ‘well worth it’
   DNR intern Laci Coleman said summer '09 will be one she and fellow intern Michael Blubaugh will "surely ... remember for the rest of our lives!” The 12 weeks they spent surveying Georgia’s Coastal Plain swamps and low-land forests for roosts of Rafinesque’s big-eared bats (pictured below) and Southeastern myotis also provided valuable details for biologists monitoring bat populations.
Photo: big-eared bat   The joint effort with Bat Conservation International documented 10 new sites for Raf bats and a few for Southeastern myotis, but a lack of adequate habitat at most areas checked. Nongame wildlife biologist Trina Morris said the Altamaha River corridor is shaping up as the most important area for big-eared bats, a promising point considering DNR land acquisitions along the river ("Massive trees, rare species," August 2009).
   The Nongame Conservation Section will continue to look for bat roosts and monitor the ones found. Morris said understanding the status of Georgia’s bats is even more important as white-nose syndrome, a fatal affliction, spreads south. As Laci wrote, after weeks spent peering into hollow trees, under bridges and even into old military bunkers, “It was a long, hot summer with plenty of biting insects, snakes, gators, dehydration and fatigue, but it was well worth it to be a part of an important conservation project.”
   Read the complete diary.

Out my backdoor
Feed them flowers?

Birds prize these plants as food in fall
By Terry W. Johnson
   The stress of the long summer is showing on the flowers in my backyard. For weeks, the zinnias, salvias, coneflowers and a host of others along with untold numbers of hummingbirds and butterflies attracted to them treated my family to a kaleidoscope of color. Knowing that soon the flowers’ time will be over fills me with mixed emotions. Hummingbirds are departing in droves. As the flowers wither and die, the butterflies will also disappear.
   Yet, I also realize that the flowers that fed nectar feeders throughout summer will continue to attract and feed birds if I don’t do anything at all. 
Photo: Cardinal eating flower seed   As amazing as that may seem, leaving flowers standing after they’ve gone to seed is a great way to feed birds. Because we backyard gardeners learn that “good” gardeners cut down flowers at the end of the growing season, this form of bird feeding is not practiced in most backyards. This fall, however, when temperatures plummet and Jack Frost makes his first visit, resist the temptation to cut the flowers killed by the frost. Instead, sit back and watch.
   Soon you will see goldfinches and many other seed-eating birds bending the brown plant stalks as they delicately remove the nutritious seeds from withered seed heads. These forays will continue until all of the seeds are eaten.
   Here is a list of five popular flowering plants that produce seeds eaten by birds in Georgia backyards. For five more – and the full version of this column -- click here.
   Sunflower: More bird species dine on the seeds of the sunflower than any other plant in Georgia gardens. The list includes Carolina chickadees, purple and house finches, brown-headed and white-breasted nuthatches, eastern towhees, northern cardinals, red-bellied, downy and hairy woodpeckers, blue jays, and tufted titmice, to name a few. (Tip: You don’t need an expensive small packet of seeds. Next spring, simply grab a handful of sunflower seeds bought to feed birds and plant them in a sunny spot in your garden. They will grow just fine.)
   Zinnia: Each year I plant a large bed of zinnias to attract butterflies. To keep the plants blooming throughout the summer, I deadhead the spent blooms. However, late in the summer, I leave the heads, knowing they will provide seeds for American goldfinches, mourning doves, dark-eyed juncos, sparrows and even quail that venture into my yard.
   Purple coneflower: During the past three decades, purple coneflowers have become increasingly popular with Georgia gardeners. Originally planted strictly for their beauty, it didn’t take long for homeowners to discover these showy flowers also attract butterflies. Hopefully, more folks will realize that if they leave the brown, cone-shaped seed heads on the plant, they will also attract American goldfinches, blackbirds, sparrows and quail.
   Petunia: Petunias have long been a favorite of Georgia homeowners. The plant’s beautiful trumpet-shaped blooms attract ruby-throated hummingbirds, cloudless sulphur butterflies and other nectar feeders throughout summer. Petunia seeds, on the other hand, are relished by our largest sparrows – the fox sparrow, dark-eyed juncos and American goldfinches.
   Four O’clock: This hardy plant provides nectar for hummingbirds late in the afternoon and early in the morning. During the night, sphinx moths visit the long bugle-shaped flowers. Some of these nocturnal visitors are larger than hummingbirds. The plant’s hard, black seeds are also gobbled up by cardinals. In my backyard, cardinals begin eating the seeds while they are still green (photo above). Those seeds that fall to the ground are devoured by quail.
   To those of us who complain about not having enough time to get everything done, discovering you can help birds in your backyard without doing anything should be comforting. It is for me. Read Terry’s full column on flowers fit for birds!

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

Photo: work crew at mountain bog
Maintaining bogs: the long slog
   How do you restore a mountain bog? Sweat, science, partners and perseverance.
   How do you keep it restored? See above.

   Mountain bogs are one of the Southern Appalachians’ most critically endangered habitats, home to species found nowhere else, such as federally threatened bog turtles, state-protected montane purple pitcherplants and federally threatened swamp pinks, some of Georgia’s rarest plants.
   Only a small number of the hundreds of Blue Ridge wetlands in the state are candidates for bog-habitat restoration. Fewer than 15 sites – pinpointed by remote mapping and ground-truthing (i.e., checking what maps appear to show) – are being restored. Conservationists want that number increased.
   The work involves not only clearing known mountain bog areas, but also evaluating other wetlands that may also be suitable for restoration. Genetic material from rare plants found at a very few intact sites is safeguarded at restored sites. Safeguarding of rare plants involves seed collection, propagation, outplanting the species at suitable sites and monitoring those outplantings. (Through safeguarding, the montane purple pitcherplant has grown in number from fewer than 20 surviving plants in the mid-1980s to more than a thousand at greenhouses and in the wild at five restored bogs.)
   Although the woody plants removed in restoring bog habitats are native, removal is necessary to produce suitable conditions for rare species to survive long-term. Wildlife biologist Thomas Floyd of the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section said species such as the montane purple pitcherplant and bog turtle require open, sunny habitats.
    "As bog habitats become overgrown, pitcherplants no longer grow vigorously, flower or produce seed,” Floyd said. “And without basking and nesting sites afforded by open habitat, bog turtles cannot successfully reproduce, and either seek more suitable wetlands elsewhere or simply dwindle in numbers.”
Art: video cameraWatch DNR's bog turtle video
   Bog restoration also brings together a network of agencies, organizations and volunteers to complete what often turns out to be a multi-year ordeal. While agencies such as the DNR and the U.S. Forest Service start the overhaul of sites, much of the maintenance falls to partner-created organizations such as the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, whose members include the Atlanta Botanical Garden, State Botanical Garden of Georgia, DNR and Zoo Atlanta, to name a few.
   Nongame Conservation Section botanist Mincy Moffett said the ideal long-term goal of habitat restoration is to bring the habitat back and then be able to “walk away.”
   But because of today’s fragmented forests and the lack of natural disturbance (including the influence of  beavers) that keeps woody vegetation at bay, “continued maintenance for these bogs is necessary and usually done by volunteers,” Moffett said.
   Through reliance on dedicated volunteers, all partner organizations save valuable resources, "allowing them to focus on the discovery and restoration of additional bog sites,” he said.
   As part of a DNR study started in 2007, scientists are using herbicide and prescribed fire to determine the most efficient way to control woody vegetation in bogs. One of three bogs studied was a hayfield only 30 years ago, converted to agricultural use years before. The field became overgrown, making it increasingly less suitable for bog turtles.
   “As part of the eight-year study, the woody vegetation was removed in much of the habitat, giving resident bog turtles a better chance of long-term survival,” Floyd said.
   The initial observation of plots treated just two autumns ago shows promise for a new maintenance protocol that will save conservation manpower and dollars.
   Mountain bog restoration is a high-priority conservation action in Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan.  It is also a key part of the U.S. Forest Service’s plans for stimulus money for critical habitat work.
   “The stimulus money will help us speed up recovery of the bogs on (Chattahoochee) National Forest land by providing the funds necessary to complete the more labor-intensive shrub clearing activities associated with bog restoration,” Forest Service wildlife biologist Mike Brod said.
   While DNR is gearing up to complete the restoration experiment at the hay field-turned-bog, many other bog sites have a long way to go. This winter, prescribed fire treatments will be installed to test hypotheses and compare techniques.
   Only time will tell if long-term bog restoration work will provide the critical habitat necessary for the rare species that depend on one of Georgia’s rarest ecological systems. But there’s no doubt that restoring this rare habitat across the landscape is a lofty goal.

Photo: restored mountain bog
Mountain bog snapshot
Mountain bogs are associated with seeps, springs or small creeks, and typically small – between a 10th of an acre to 5 acres. Each is unique, exhibiting slight differences in species composition, elevation and hydrology. Each also provides critical habitat for a variety of species found nowhere else. Pictured: A restored bog in Northeast Georgia.

   The trapping season for juvenile peregrines along Georgia’s coast ended Oct. 20 with one eligible bird being captured by master falconers. See next month’s Georgia Wild for the story behind the season.
   2009 proved average in total sea turtle nests for Georgia (read more) but not so average in other aspects. There were seven leatherback nests, the most recorded, and genetics research ID'd approximately 1,000 different loggerheads nesting here, including 20 mother-daughter pairs. Nest updates at left.
   Need a scare? A new U.S. Geological Survey report probes the potential risks to ecosystems and possibly people in the U.S. from giant non-native snakes. Five species pose “high” risks; two are documented as reproducing in the wild in southern Florida.
Photo: CoastFest crowd   It’s no surprise the annual CoastFest at DNR Coastal Resources Division offices proved a hit. The surprise was that a record crowd of 7,500-plus came to see annual attractions like a life-sized inflatable right whale calf, container after container of live frogs, a “touch tank” and even live sharks, all aimed at raising awareness of coastal habitats and wildlife.
   The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has laid out its strategy for responding to climate change impacts on the nation’s natural resources. The service notes that without “substantial new funding” from Congress, “this plan will never be implemented.”
   Collecting seed from native grasses is the focus of Georgia Important Bird Area events Oct. 31 at Panola Mountain State Park near Stockbridge and Nov. 7 at Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Historic Site in Dallas. Contact Georgia IBA coordinator Charlie Muise for details.
   A Sept. 30 workday targeting invasive plants mostly on Goat Rock Reservoir’s rocky ledges drew about 10 workers and three Columbus-area TV stations. While workers, some using ropes on the slopes, cut Chinese privet, The Nature Conservancy’s Michele Elmore explained how Georgia rockcress and Nevius stonecrop will benefit from the teamwork involving the Conservancy, DNR and Georgia Power, all members of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance. (See some of Michele's photos of these rare plants.)
   Twenty juvenile whooping cranes are set to follow Operation Migration’s ultralight plane on migration from Wisconsin’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge to Florida’s Gulf Coast. The route takes the flight of endangered birds through Georgia's southwestern tip.
   A federal judge has ordered the Interior Department to place nearly 600 grizzly bears in and near Yellowstone National Park back on the endangered species list. Death rates for the bears, taken off the list in 2007, are rising as pine beetles destroy the whitebark pines the grizzlies depend on.
   The Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the critical habitat designation for Florida manatees. The 90-day-finding announced last month is the first step in a thorough look at data to see if revision is warranted and, if so, how to proceed. Critical habitat for Florida manatees was designated in 1976, the first under the Endangered Species Act for an endangered marine animal.
   A coalition of businesses and sportsmen organizations is promoting the financial benefits of the nation’s 58.5 million acres of national forest roadless areas. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership said a “Banking on the Backcountry” letter signed by sportsmen's groups and supporting businesses has been delivered to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Parting shot
Photo: tiger swallowtail caterpillar

Big-eyed blob or ...? Retired biology professor Bill Dunson took this photo of the amazingly marked caterpillar of the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly. Bill, who grew up in Georgia and now splits his time between Virginia and Florida, found this one on a black cherry tree. He notes the coloration for hiding, and the fake “eyes” for fooling predators into thinking this creature is more “dangerous snake than delicious caterpillar.” Bill also took the owl photograph at top, an eastern screech owl that was being mobbed by bluebirds. Send us your best wildlife shot and we may use it in Georgia Wild or post it on our Flickr and Facebook sites!

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