In this issue: Gulf spill experience  *  Best hummer food  Dawson addition  *  WRP wood storks
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June 2010
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All of the above support Georgia DNR's Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state funds to conserve nongame wildlife, native plants and natural habitats. Details: (770) 761-3035.

WILD Facts
Are most butterflies brightly colored and most moths dull-looking? Since butterflies and moths occur in a variety of colors, you’ll need to look at other characteristics to tell them apart. The antennae of butterflies are club-like while moths have feathery antennae. With a magnifying hand lens, you may also notice that the scales on a butterfly’s wings are uniformly overlapped while moth scales look irregular and sometimes “hairy.” In flight, moths usually hold their upper and lower wings together, but butterfly wings do not stay connected. Also, butterflies are diurnal (normally active during the day) while moths are nocturnal (normally active at night).
In education
A bats program for families is planned for 6:30-10 p.m. July 25 at Fort Mountain State Park. The event kicks off the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network's annual Bat Blitz. Kids can browse bat displays, make bat crafts and learn about these aerobatic, insect-eating mammals as biologists demonstrate mist-netting techniques and bat detection devices. The parking fee at Fort Mountain, seven miles east of Chatsworth, is $5 per vehicle. Details: (770) 918-6792.

Conservation lands
Acquiring 469 acres in the heart of Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area links “more than 15,000 acres of conservation land,” Gov. Sonny Perdue said in announcing the deal June 16. Long a conservation priority for the state, the Dawson County property connects two tracts of the popular WMA and features two miles of Amicalola Creek and its tributaries, vital waters that support at least 27 native fish species, three of them endangered. "Permanently protecting Georgia's land resources is one of the most visible examples of our state's culture of conservation,” Perdue said. Georgia DNR and the Georgia Land Conservation Program acquired the land from The Nature Conservancy, which bought it from the Forestar Real Estate Group in 2008 at a reduced price and held it until the state could arrange funding. The Nature Conservancy contributed $2.15 million through a discounted sale to the state. Contributions from other public and private partners – the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, Robert H. Dobbs Jr. Foundation, Mountain Conservation Trust, Lyndhurst Foundation, Trout Unlimited, the DNR, the Georgia Land Conservation Program and anonymous private donors – also helped the state buy the property. Perdue and DNR Commissioner Chris Clark lauded the support. "More than 80 percent of the funds needed to purchase the land were contributed by our private and federal partners,” Clark said. Shelly Lakly, Nature Conservancy state director in Georgia, said the chance "to safeguard these acres could not be ignored, so we made the decision to act and contribute to the final funding."

Yellow bat

Up close
Northern yellow bat
Lasiurus intermedius

At a glance: One of 16 bat species found in Georgia and one of the largest bats in the eastern U.S. Yellow bats can reach  5 inches long and weigh about a half-ounce to 0.7 ounces. Fur color varies from yellow-orange and brown to almost gray. Ears are rounded and short.
Distribution: Found in coastal areas from South Carolina – with reports as far north as New Jersey – to Florida, Cuba, along the Gulf Coast to Texas, and south into Mexico to Honduras.
Close kin: Larger than the southern yellow bat (Lasiurus ega), found in North America in southern Texas, southeastern California and Mexico.
On the roost: Roosts in foliage, mainly in Spanish moss and under dead fronds on palm trees. Three other Georgia bats regularly roost in foliage: red, Seminole and hoary bats. Other species sometimes roost under bark and in hollow trees.
On the fly: Eats variety of flying insects, from mosquitoes to flies and leafhoppers. Can be spotted in evenings feeding over water and open areas such as fields and golf courses.
Staying put: Non-migratory. Active year-round except in extreme cold.
Family: Mates mainly in fall – likely in flight. Sperm is stored in females’ reproductive tracts until they ovulate in spring. Bears two to four pups in May or June. Pups are weaned by August.
Conservation status: State-listed as rare to imperiled in Georgia. Rates as a species of conservation concern from South Carolina to Texas. Considered globally secure. More information is needed to accurately determine species’ status. (See "Follow the yellow bat home" at bottom right.)
Threats: Loss of habitat and use of pesticides, possibly including residential mosquito spraying.

Sources include: Bat Conservation International, Texas Parks and Wildlife, South Carolina DNR, Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division

D.C. talk

Get in on the ground floor of America's Great Outdoors Initiative. Listening sessions for the White House effort to develop a national conservation and recreation agenda include one scheduled for June 28 in Charleston, S.C. Comments, which can also be made online, will be used for a report due in November. At the June 2 session in Helena, Mont., a crowd of about 200 gave federal officials "an earful ... on how to better protect open lands and get people, especially children, into the great outdoors," the Billings Gazette reported.

Sea turtle icon
Tracking sea turtles
A Georgia sea turtle nesting update from*

Nests: 553 (7 lost; 1.2%)
Relocated: 291 (52.6%)
Eggs estimate: 33,002
Eggs lost: 1,758 (5.3%)
False crawls: 630

*As of June 15. Here's a complete look at real-time data and beach reports.

    In tax year 2009, 63 Georgia landowners received state income tax credits for voluntary land and conservation easement donations that permanently conserved 38,660 acres, according to Gov. Sonny Perdue. Since 2006, when the credit was established, the DNR and the Georgia Land Conservation Program have approved tax credits for more than 200 donations, conserving more than 90,000 acres across the state.
   Williams Bluff Nature Preserve in southwest Georgia received another 300 gopher frog metamorphs this week. The reintroduction of the rare frogs at The Nature Conservancy preserve will benefit this summer from possibly 1,000 tadpoles and metamorphs (young frogs just transforming from tadpoles) raised by the University of Georgia and Atlanta Botanical Garden, said Nongame senior wildlife biologist John Jensen, who released the latest batch.
Pete Griffin and eagle  
   Nongame’s Pete Griffin (above) and Jim Ozier added a dose of wildlife to the men’s tours and programs at the recent National Garden Clubs convention in Atlanta. Griffin, an outreach and education specialist at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, gave a presentation including a bald eagle at the Omni Hotel. The men also had the chance to watch Ozier, a program manager, band peregrine falcon nestlings raised in a nest atop SunTrust Plaza.
   Whooping crane nesting season produced six chicks on and around Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. Results for the endangered birds included the first chick hatched by a “direct autumn release” crane, one raised by humans then released with whooping cranes that have migrated before or with wild sandhill crane flocks.
   Odwalla's Plant a Tree program will help pay for trees at Georgia state parks, including longleaf pine seedlings at parks like Hamburg and General Coffee. To add yours, go to, click on Georgia and sign up to plant a tree for free.
   Plants for the Planet is signing up supporters for the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. The strategy, formed from the Convention on Biological Diversity treaty and pegged to the United Nation’s International Year of Biodiversity, seeks to halt the loss of plant diversity, harmonize plant conservation initiatives, enhance an ecosystems approach and spur a Convention on Biological Diversity pilot study.
   Photographer Diane Kirkland’s shot of an Ossabaw Island rookery has topped competitions including the Fulton County Arts Council’s “Georgia Artists” exhibit. Kirkland is a regular supporter of Georgia’s annual Weekend for Wildlife nongame fundraiser.
   National Pollinator Week, set for June 21-27, celebrates the ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. Find out more from the Pollinator Partnership.
   The bottlenose dolphin featured in the children’s book “A Dolphin Named Tag” was spotted this month near Skidaway Institute of Oceanography on Skidaway Island. “Tag” author Susan Hall, a school counselor in Effingham County, said she saw the animal that DNR researchers and others freed from trash in 2008. Hall said the dolphin bears the scars of its entanglement, but otherwise appears healthy and “was swimming with others, including a male.”

Nongame in the news
CNN: "Brown pelican long a symbol of camera imagesurvival," about comeback of species, removed from endangered species list in 2009, now facing threats from Gulf oil spill. (June 15)
Savannah Morning News: "Before long flight, birds fatten up on Georgia coast," about whimbrel research, including Georgia's role as a critical stopover point. (June 15)
The Florida Times-Union: "Beetles spread disease, killing red bays in Georgia," about disease from Asian beetles threatening red bays from Delaware to Texas. (June 12)
The Associated Press: "Paper industry tests genetically altered trees," about plans and debate involving planting engineered eucalyptus trees in seven Southern states, including Georgia. (June 7)
The Brunswick News: "Turtle nesting numbers on schedule," about sea turtle totals first month into the nesting season. (June 7)
Savannah Morning News: "Gulf turtles get help from Savannah," about DNR biologist Mark Dodd's work in the Gulf. (June 6) Other spill coverage: Savannah Morning News (editorial kudos to Dodd): "Georgia must help," Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Oysters will tell if oil reaches Georgia coast," WOTC-TV camera image(Savannah) and others: "Georgia DNR rescuing turtles trapped in Gulf oil spill," Athens Banner-Herald: "UGA helps assess spill's threat to state," The Augusta Chronicle: "Gulf oil spill unlikely to hurt Ga. coasts"'
Savannah Morning News: "Tybee records its first turtle nest of season," about loggerhead nest discovered June 2. (June 3) And another.
Spatial Sustain: "Sonar used to map habitat in navigable streams," DNR release about researchers developing low-cost, side-scan sonar methodology. (June 2)
The Outdoor Wire: "Georgia trio ties state birding record and raises funds," DNR release about three birders whose "big day" fielded pledges for the state's Wildlife Conservation Fund. (June 2)
Chattanooga Times Free-Press: "Specialty tags to cost $35 each year," about law change adding renewal fee for all Georgia specialty plates. (May 31) The Florida Times-Union: "Okefenokee refuge manager retiring after 41 years in wildlife service," about July 2 retirement of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's George Constantino. (May 30)
The Augusta Chronicle: "Prescribed burns: is sound forest management killing Georgia’s wild turkeys?" about debate over growing-season burns' impact on wildlife. (May 28)
camera imageWXIA-TV (Ch. 11/Atlanta): "Teacher gets teens to appreciate the environment," about Morrow High's Candice Jones and the Eco Club's involvement in the Youth Birding Competition. (May 24)
Coastal Courier: "Strike team concludes successful burn season," DNR release about prescribed fire work this year led by Nongame Conservation Section. (May 24)

June 19-25: Paddle Georgia 2010
June 21-27: National Pollinator Week
June 22-23
: Georgia DNR Board of Natural Resources committee meetings (1 p.m. June 22), monthly meeting (9 a.m. June 23), DNR board room, Atlanta.
July 25-29: Bat Blitz, Fort Mountain State Park, Chatsworth. Family education night, 6:30 p.m. July 25.

Photo credits
(from top):
* In masthead: Mark Dodd searches for turtles in an oil-soaked sargassum line in the Gulf. Ga. DNR
* Young green sea turtle suffering from oil exposure. NOAA
* WRP site in Mitchell County before restoration (Keith Wooster/NRCS) and after (Rick Lavender/Ga. DNR)
* Wood storks and nests at the restored wetland. Rick Lavender/Ga. DNR
* Northern yellow bat. J. Scott Altenbach
* Male ruby-throated hummingbird at feeder. Terry W. Johnson
* Pete Griffin during wildlife program as part of National Garden Club convention. Photo provided by Jaydee Atkins Ager/The Garden Club of Ga.
* Remnant of longleaf pine once tapped for turpentine industry on what is now state-owned Sprewell Bluff. Linda May/Ga. DNR
* Greater tickseed (Coreopsis major), common to montane longleaf understory and part of forest-floor fuel for fire-dependent ecosystem. Linda May/Ga. DNR
* Sapelo Island yellow bat with radio transmitter. Trina Morris/Ga. DNR
* Chattahoochee Nature Center's Kathryn Dudeck releasing peregrine. Rick Lavender/Ga. DNR

Georgia Wild
volume 3, issue 6

Georgia Wild is produced by the Georgia DNR 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 here, or read 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 Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund state income tax checkoff and Weekend for Wildlife. Call (770) 761-3035 or (478) 994-1438 for details. The nongame plates – the bald eagle and ruby-throated hummingbird – are available at 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.

Read more in "Conserving Nongame Wildlife: 2008-2009," a report on the Nongame Conservation Section's work.

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Of oil and turtles
Green sea turtle in oil

Gulf project leaves DNR’s Mark Dodd
with unforgettable images, outlook

   "Unfortunately, the primary habitat used by juvenile turtles in the Gulf, which includes sargassum weed found in convergence zones, is also where the surface oil is concentrated from the spill. The juvenile sea turtles did not seem to recognize the oil as a threat and remained in the sargassum despite the heavy accumulation of oil. All turtles we captured were alive but suffering from the effects of oil.

   In late May and early June, senior wildlife biologist Mark Dodd of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources took part in a pilot study documenting impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on sea turtles. The project led by Blair Witherington, sea turtle researcher for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Barbara Schroeder, national sea turtle coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, and NMFS veterinarian Brian Stacy had two objectives: assess the effects of oil on sea turtles and recover live turtles suffering from the oil for rehabilitation.
   Mark and the seven other researchers and support staff searched sargassum weed lines where wildlife, and now oil, converge miles offshore. Using dip nets on long poles, they rescued 17 turtles, most of them Kemp’s ridleys.
   The work gave them a firsthand look at what is being called the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and left them with images of dark smoke rising from fires along a sargassum line, oil as deep as you can see in the Gulf’s blue waters and turtles slick with brown oil, a harbinger of what may come.
   Read Mark’s full account.

S. Ga.: Reborn wetland
woos rare wood storks

Then, now at WRP site

   For more than 70 years, nearly 90 acres of a Mitchell County bottomland lay mostly dry, drained by a shallow ditch through the heart of the cup-shaped tract.
   Yet in 2003, owners James and Sue Adams applied to enroll the site in the federal Wetlands Reserve Program. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service approved a permanent conservation easement. The ditch, dug in the 1930s to fight mosquitoes and malaria, was plugged in 2006. Water soon flooded the tall grass and cypress trees.
Wood storks and nests   And this year, like last, endangered wood storks (left) joined a growing throng of cattle egrets, anhingas and little blue herons that have adopted the reborn wetland as a rookery (before, after photos above).
  Earlier this month, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Georgia DNR workers eased small boats across shimmering green duckweed and around cypress trees crowded with stick nests and white chicks. One pond cypress no more than 25 feet tall held seven wood stork nests. Storks, their black heads bowed, eyed the boats as adult and young birds across the pond squawked and clucked in the afternoon heat turned thick by thunderstorms roaming the horizon.
   DNR Nongame Conservation Section employees estimate the site has 125 wood stork nests, part of an annual spring survey. Biologists discovered the new Mitchell County site after a stork the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was tracking by satellite transmitter in Florida moved to south Georgia.
   James Lee Adams Jr. is pleased. The former engineer retired from farming in 2000, but he still deals in land and keeps close tabs on agricultural programs. Adams said it was obvious to him and his wife the property, owned largely by the couple’s AA Land Co. and part of a larger intact wetland covering about 200 acres, should “never have been put into production.”
   The Wetlands Reserve Program, or WRP, allowed them to take it out.  For wetlands degraded by urbanization and intensive farming, the voluntary program offers financial incentives for permanent or 30-year conservation easements, as well as cost-share agreements for restoration. Wetland protection and restoration are established as the main land use. Wildlife benefit, and landowners still control access.
   The WRP had 2 million acres enrolled as of 2009. The goal: 1 million more in five years. Georgia has about 16,500 acres in 45 sites. Keith Wooster, state wildlife biologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, rates the Adams tract as the top No. 2 or 3 site in southwest Georgia.
   James Tillman Sr., state conservationist for the agency, said Georgia has “enjoyed tremendous success” helping landowners install wetland conservation practices through the WRP. The help also continues after the habitat is restored, Tillman said.
   The option for permanent protection helped attract the Adams. “I think we have a responsibility No. 1 to look after the land,” James Adams said. “… We’re just holding this land in trust.”
   Controlling access and receiving a financial return also proved important. Adams sees public support through programs like WRP as vital so small landowners can afford to set aside land for conservation.
   Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan, a strategy that guides DNR efforts to conserve biological diversity, emphasizes working with landowners to promote conservation on private lands, Nongame Conservation Section Chief Mike Harris said.
   The impact is evident in one corner of Mitchell County. What was a prairie-like field is now wet, rich habitat for everything from eastern kingbirds and black-bellied whistling ducks to American bullfrogs and a lanky wading bird struggling to regain its foothold in the U.S.

Next month: Georgia wood stork survey results

Out my backdoor
at feeder

The hummer solution
4-to-1 sugar-water mix offers birds’ best fuel
By Terry W. Johnson
   Ruby-throated hummingbirds control the air space over our yards in spring and summer. Although the rubythroat is so small that 10 could be mailed for the price of a first-class stamp, no other bird can threaten its aerial superiority. As with supersonic aircraft, this feathered dynamo operates on a high-energy fuel: in this case, sugar.
   Hummingbirds obtain most of this energy by eating nectar from flowers – a lot of flowers. A hummingbird sometimes visits upwards of 1,500 flowers a day. If we shared the same rate of metabolism, we could consume 155,000 calories worth of candy bars, French fries and ice cream sodas a day and not worry about gaining an ounce.  
   Some 101 years ago, Caroline Soule of Brookline, Mass., made the first hummingbird feeder. It was nothing more than an artificial trumpet creeper blossom stuffed into a glass bottle of sugar water. Little did she know her invention would change the lives of hummingbirds and hummingbird fanciers. When she first hung it in her yard, she didn’t have to wait long to see if hummingbirds would use it. In no time at all, they were regularly visiting this new source of food.
   We may never know the strength of the sugar-water solution Ms. Soule used. Over the past century, a number of feeding solutions have been tried. One of the first was honey. In the minds of many, it stood to reason this natural food would be ideal. Sadly, honey did more harm than good. It contains sugars quite different from those found in flower nectar. Honey consists of dextrose; nectar contains a sucrose-fructose compound. Honey-water mixtures also quickly become contaminated with bacteria and fungi that can cause lesions on a hummingbird’s tongue.
   Through trial and error, hummingbird enthusiasts and biologists alike eventually learned that a mixture of 4 parts water to 1 part white sugar is the best food to offer hummingbirds in the wild.
   Making this energy-rich fuel is a cinch. Bring 4 parts of water to a rapid boil before adding 1 part sugar (boiling helps retard the growth of bacteria and fungi). Once the sugar dissolves, boil the solution another 2-3 minutes. Some folks use extra fine sugar because it dissolves faster.
   There are a number of commercially prepared hummingbird mixtures. Manufacturers boast that their packaged hummingbird foods contain important minerals and protein supplements. Such additives are essential in keeping captive hummingbirds healthy. However, wild hummingbirds obtain all of the minerals and proteins they need from eating small insects and spiders as well as flower nectar.
   A 4:1 mixture of water to sugar closely approximates the 21-percent sugar content of flower nectar. Claims abound that feeding hummingbirds stronger solutions can cause kidney damage. To my knowledge, this has never been proven. However, some writers suggest feeding hummingbirds a 3:1 or stronger mixture in cold weather when the nectar flow of many flowers decreases.  That being said, I recommend you stick with a 4:1 mixture.
   At no time of the year is a hummingbird’s need for nectar greater than in summer. During these languid days when cicadas are calling loudly from the treetops and each passing day is shorter than the one before, hummingbirds go on a feeding binge. They are preparing to embark on an epic journey to their wintering grounds, a trek that will carry them over at least 500 miles of water in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet, they will make many stops to refuel while flying overland. To cross the Gulf they will need to carry 3/40th of an ounce fuel stored as fat.
   As the face of our landscape changes, hummingbirds, like warblers, thrushes and other long-distance migrants, are finding it increasingly more difficult to find stopover sites where they can quickly find enough food to successfully make their migration flights. Our hummingbird feeders make it easier for rubythroats to quickly “tank up” on the fuel they need to make the trip.
   With that in mind, just remember that a simple solution of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar can supply hummingbirds with an abundant energy source while providing us with countless hours of enjoyment watching the aerial acrobatics of this truly remarkable bird.

Does food coloring help or hurt?
Read the complete version of Terry's column.

Terry Johnson is a former Nongame program manager with the Wildlife Resources Division, a backyard wildlife expert, and executive director of TERN, the friends group for Wildlife Resources' Nongame Conservation Section. Terry’s column is a regular Georgia Wild feature.

Top threat at the feeder
According to Terry, the greatest issue posed by feeding hummingbirds sugar water stems from the fact that many homeowners don’t regularly change their hummingbird food. When you see black spots forming on the inside of the feeder or the fluid becoming cloudy, it is long past time to change it.   During July and August, when temperatures daily soar to 90 and above, it is a good idea to change your solution every two to three days.

Georgia SWAP: Part III
Where habitats overlap:
Restoring montane longleaf
By Linda May
   The fire-adapted longleaf pine ecosystem is one of the Southeast’s richest habitats. Its characteristically open canopy invites sunlight to dapple the forest floor, springing forth a host of low-growing grasses, ferns and wildflowers in the understory. The plant life, along with the environment’s streams and rivers, provides food, water and shelter for a variety of wildlife.
Old, cut longleaf   In the 1930s, about 4 million acres of these long-lived pines dominated the Coastal Plain as well as sections of the western Piedmont. Less than 5 percent of that native landscape exists today, with only some areas maintaining pristine groundcover. Not surprisingly, many wildlife species that live in these forests have also declined, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, Bachman’s sparrow, bobwhite quail and northern pine snake. In hopes of saving this biologically important ecosystem, longleaf pine habitats are listed as a high priority in Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan.
   While significant research has been conducted on longleaf habitats in the Coastal Plain, less is known about the ecosystems in the mountains. A few stands of montane longleaf pines remain from just north of Rome to Pine and Oak mountains in west-central Georgia. Like their Coastal Plain counterparts, most longleaf in the mountains were harvested.   Many were replaced with shorter-lived loblolly and other pine species for industrial forestry. Others were simply abandoned, leaving room for fire-intolerant hardwood species that compete with longleaf pine and suppress understory diversity and abundance. Beneficial, regular lightning-set fires were replaced by a century of fire suppression, increasing competition from trees like sweetgum that would otherwise die in the flames.
   Because of human impact, a few old stumps typically are all that is left of the longleaf forest.  
   Although the remaining longleaf communities in the Coastal Plain and the mountains share similarities, montane longleaf ecosystems boast unique, endangered oak woodland and glade habitats among the pines. DNR-managed Sprewell Bluff, just west of Thomaston on Pine Mountain, contains these special open woodlands where longleaf pines mix with an unusual variety of fire-tolerant oaks and other hardwood species like sand post oak, blackjack oak, Darlington oak, turkey oak, sand hickory, hoptree and Alabama cherry. Greater tickseedBluestem and other native grasses as well as wildflowers attract butterflies and many of the same migratory songbirds that frequent the north Georgia mountains.
   According to DNR senior wildlife biologist Nathan Klaus, “The overlap of northern and southern species is what makes this place so unique.”
   Restoring Sprewell Bluff and other montane longleaf pine habitats is Klaus’ passion. “If you can get back to the original habitat, you will perpetuate the original species richness,” he said.
   How do land managers restore the original habitat? Loblolly harvest followed by longleaf plantings is an option, but prescribed fire is the main tool used for bringing back native species. Since farming was less prevalent on the steep, rocky Pine Mountain soils than elsewhere in the Piedmont, most of the topsoil and natural seed bank is still in place.
   “These mountain habitats offer the greatest potential in the Piedmont for managing species that require open pine habitat,” Klaus said. “Getting back to a functional ecosystem is possible here just by prescribed burning.”
   For prescribed burns, detailed fire management plans must be developed and approved, and well-defined firebreaks (pdf) must be in place. The proper temperature, humidity and wind have to occur before any drip torches are put into action. Prescribed fire also takes a well-trained crew, especially when dealing with decades of fuel build-up in the form of pine needles, fallen leaves and sticks. This overabundance of “duff” at the base of large trees can smolder for hours with intense heat and kill even the most fire-resistant mature longleaf pines. To prevent such a disaster, decades of low-impact fires may be set when the weather is cool and the ground is moist, reducing the fuel to safer levels before returning to a normal fire regime.
   Klaus applies a suite of tools in his restoration work. In addition to studying the fire ecology of montane longleaf, he is also studying how different herbicides may be used to suppress unwanted species while minimizing harm to desirable plants. For better insight into the natural frequency of fires, Klaus used dendrochronology, the science of studying tree rings. Examining fire scars on sections of longleaf pine dating back to the 1770s, he documented the historic fire frequency and season. His findings are used to guide management of Sprewell Bluff and other important habitats.  
   When asked why he cares so much about restoring longleaf ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity, Klaus replied, “Life is so much richer with variety. We could probably survive in a world of skyscrapers, but would we want to?”

Public lands longleaf
See the beauty of montane longleaf pine forests here:

This article is the third in a SWAP series. Part 1: Plan at a glance; II: Toccoa River focus. Next month: Conservation on the coast.

Linda May is the environmental outreach coordinator with the Nongame Conservation Section. Send comments.

Follow the yellow bat home

Yellow bat with transmitter

   The Nongame Conservation Section and UGA's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources have teamed up to take a closer look at northern yellow bats, one of Georgia’s 16 bat species and a high-priority species in the State Wildlife Action Plan. Very few yellow bats have been recorded in the state – all from the extreme Coastal Plain – and little is known about Lasiurus intermedius here or in many other states in its range.
   Warnell student Laci Coleman is examining roosting habitats of this elusive species for her senior thesis. With the help of UGA wildlife professor Steven Castleberry and Nongame Conservation Section biologist Trina Morris, Laci developed a project to study yellow bats on Sapelo Island.
   “When we first got to Sapelo, I was worried that we wouldn't catch many bats,” Coleman said. “Then I realized that catching bats wouldn't be the problem; catching yellow bats would be the hard part."
   But success came early: In May, Coleman captured a male northern yellow bat on the first night of trapping, one of 42 bats netted that night, most of them evening bats. A tiny radio transmitter was glued to the skin on the yellow bat’s back. The transmitter signal lasts about two weeks, giving Laci and her crew time to track the bat to its roosts. The second night yielded two yellow bats, a male and a pregnant female.
   DNR summer bat interns Beth Oxford and Brannon Knight are helping Coleman (who may be familiar to readers from last year's bat intern diary). The interns' first assignment: Spend three weeks on Sapelo trapping and tracking yellow bats. On their second day, they were mist netting until the early morning hours and tracking bats afterward. The first yellow bat captured was easily followed to a nearby clump of Spanish moss, its roost for the day. Coleman and the interns have since captured a fourth yellow bat and tracked the four to roosts across the island.
   The information will help DNR make decisions about the management and conservation status of yellow bats. “So little is known about this species,” Morris said. “This project is critical to understanding the habitats needed for yellow bats in Georgia.”
   Additional work trapping and recording calls of yellow bats and other species in the Coastal Plain will help determine how rare the yellow bat is in Georgia.
   Learning more about bats is even more important with the growing threat of white-nose syndrome. “We don’t expect yellow bats to be impacted by WNS since they are not cave-dwelling and are active year-round,” Morris said. Yet, better understanding the status and requirements of the species is critical in the face of other threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation.

Fresh start for Ala. indigos
Georgia snakes provide hatchlings for project
   The return of indigo snakes to Alabama this week has ties to Georgia.
   The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division released 18 captive-raised indigos this week at 84,000-acre Conecuh National Forest along the Alabama-Florida line. The non-venomous snake, North America’s longest, had not been confirmed in the wild in Alabama since the mid-1950s.
   But, in a State Wildlife Grant project, the state wildlife agency and Auburn University have raised young indigos with the goal of establishing a new population. Georgia provided the gravid female snakes, collected by permit over the past two years. Auburn and Zoo Atlanta raised the hatchlings. Adult snakes were released back in south Georgia at their original collection sites.
   DNR senior wildlife biologist John Jensen said indigos have been hammered by impacts varying from habitat loss – including fewer gopher tortoise burrows because of tortoise declines – to the pet trade and gassing tortoise burrows to catch rattlesnakes for roundups, a practice that can kill or injure indigos and other burrow users.
   Conecuh (pronounced con-EK-uh) features acres of restored longleaf pine ecosystem, prime habitat for indigos. “Habitat improvement and hopefully better human tolerance for the role of the indigo snake will allow it to come back” in Alabama, Jensen said.
   Project partners also included Project Orianne, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and Fort Stewart.

Parting shot
Peregrine release

Kathryn Dudeck of the Chattahoochee Nature Center releases a young peregrine falcon from a parking deck in downtown Atlanta. Building employees found the female falcon on its back on the deck roof, suffering from trichomoniasis. Dudeck rehabilitated the peregrine, one of three fledged weeks before from a 51st-floor nest outside the McKenna, Long & Aldridge offices at nearby SunTrust Plaza, and returned it to urban skies on June 9.


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