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Give wildlife a chance
Georgia DNR's Nongame Conservation Section receives no state funding to conserve nongame wildlife, native plants and natural habitats. Instead, we depend on contributions, grants and fundraisers. How can you help?
* Buy a conservation license plate.
* Contribute to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund tax checkoff.
* Donate directly to the Nongamclick&pledge logoe Conservation Section, even online.
* Use GoodSearch for Internet searches (enter "Georgia Nongame Conservation Fund" under "Who do you GoodSearch for" and click "Verify").

WILD Facts
“Rodent” often is used when referring to a mouse or rat. However, other mammals in Georgia belong to the order Rodentia, too, including voles, chipmunks, squirrels, muskrats and beavers. These plant eaters have front incisor teeth and rear molars but lack pointy canine teeth on the sides. The front surface of their incisors is made of hard enamel while the back consists of softer dentine. This difference in hardness causes the teeth to wear unevenly and results in a very sharp chisel for chomping. Rodent incisors never stop growing; they get worn down gnawing on nuts, fruits and woody plants.
-- Linda May

In education
Got questions about Georgia's protected plants and animals? At, we have answers. The website for DNR's Wildlife Resources Division features a growing list of entries covering state and federally listed species, from Atlantic pigtoe to Xyris tennesseensis, or Tennessee yellow-eyed grass. Accounts include photographs, characteristics, distributional maps and details on ecology and conservation status. Some accounts are in the works, but many are online. Find them here.

D.C. talk
The CLEAR Act narrowly passed the U.S. House with full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund late last month. H.R. 3534, the Consolidated Land, Energy and Aquatic Resources Act, also has provisions for oil and gas development on federal lands and waters, including measures for cleanup and restoration of the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon spill. Similar legislation is in the Senate, where Democrats recently abandoned hopes for passing comprehensive climate change legislation this summer. The House bill, passed 209-193, would provide $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Created in 1965 to help federal, state and local governments create and maintain public outdoors recreation areas, the fund has never been bankrolled at its target amount of $900 million.

Dolphin photo
Up close

Bottlenose dolphin
Tursiops truncates
Up close: Member of the sub-order Odontoceti, or toothed whales. Also part of the larger order Cetacea. Cetaceans are large marine mammals and include all dolphins, whales and porpoises.
Closer kin: One of 36 members of the family Delphinidae, which also includes pilot and killer whales.
Key characteristics: All cetaceans have horizontally flattened tails (or flukes), blowholes and no hind limbs. These dolphins also have a distinct, elongated “bottle-shaped” rostrum (nose and mouth). They breathe through a blowhole on top of their heads. They are colored gray to dark gray with lighter shades on undersides (a form of camouflage called countershading that helps protect from predators). Some may have spots or streaks.
Size: Varies considerably depending on habitat and breeding population. Coastal animals can be as small as 6 feet long and 330 pounds. Offshore animals tend to be larger, measuring up to 12 feet long and nearly 1,000 pounds. Males are larger than females.
Range: Found in temperate and tropical waters around the world.
Habitat: Bottlenose dolphins prefer brackish and salt water, but can tolerate fresh water for limited periods. Coastal populations usually prefer warmer, more shallow waters while offshore dolphins can be found in cooler, deeper waters. Some dolphins migrate while others remain in the same areas their entire lives.
Behavior: Extremely intelligent; used for entertainment in such places as Sea World and for work by the military. Often seen chasing each other, vocalizing, breaching and even tossing seaweed or other items back and forth in what some Camera imageresearchers call “play behavior.” (Watch dolphins play with bubble rings.) These social animals are usually found in groups of two to 15. Groups are not necessarily static – some animals leave and others join at different times.
Ties that bind: Male-female bonding between pairs tends to be short-lived but male pair bonds have been documented to last as long as 20 years. Groups have been observed caring for and aiding injured and sick dolphins, even attempting to keep the ailing dolphin upright so it can breathe.
Friend or foe: Friendliness toward humans is well documented. Have been known to “rescue” humans from drowning. Not so with sharks: have been observed attacking and killing sharks – even when unprovoked.
Reproduction: Reproductive age varies. Females may become mature from 5-12 years and males between 10-14. Females give birth to one calf approximately once every three years. Gestation lasts 12 months. Calves are 3-4 feet long at birth and weigh 20-40 pounds. In some cases, a so-called “auntie” dolphin may assist a female during calving.
Toxins research: A NOAA project involving DNR found that dolphins sampled in Georgia estuaries had the highest levels of PCBs yet reported in marine mammals. NOAA says the PCB compounds' signature is consistent with contaminants from a Superfund site near Brunswick. High levels also were found in dolphins near a protected area 30 miles from Brunswick, suggesting contaminants are moving along the coast through the food web. The effect of the contaminants on the local population is unclear.
Status: Generally common. Worldwide population numbers are unknown, but in some areas numbers have been estimated. Subpopulations, or stocks, can be depleted by disease outbreaks and other impacts. Dolphins are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. It is illegal to approach, feed, touch or harass wild dolphins.
Threats: Industrial and agricultural pollution, particularly along the coast; by-catch in long-lines and gill nets; collisions with boats; entanglement in and ingestion of recreational fishing gear; illegal feeding and harassment; and hunting for meat and blubber in some Asian countries.
How you can help: Learn about pollution and its causes. Dispose of monofilament line, leftover bait and other fishing gear properly. Never feed or harass dolphins.

Sources include: Sea World, Georgia DNR

Sea turtle icon
Tracking sea turtles

A Georgia sea turtle nesting update from*

Nests: 1,740 (38 lost)
Relocated: 900 (51.7%)
Eggs estimate: 139,380
Eggs lost: 5,335 (3.8%)
Eggs hatched: 69,477
Emerged hatchlings: 62,617
Mean emergence success: 64.4%
False crawls: 2,039

As of Aug. 23. Here's a complete look at real-time data and beach reports.

   Gopher frog releases at The Nature Conservancy’s Williams Bluff Preserve topped about 1,500 metamorphs and late-stage tadpoles this summer, a marked increase from 2009. Nongame senior wildlife biologist John Jensen said the year 2012 could offer the first solid evidence of finding adult gopher frogs returning to the pond to breed, signaling that restoration is working.
   The Georgia Important Bird Areas Program is organizing volunteer events that benefit birds Sept. 25, in recognition of National Public Lands Day. Contact program Coordinator Charlie Muise to sign up or learn more about activities from removing invasive plants to marking cavity trees for endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers.
   Videos of bank-to-bank alligators at Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okefenokee Swamp created a stir. But natural history pioneer William Bartram documented a similar encounter more than 200 years ago -- “a prodigious assemblage of crocodiles … which exceeded every thing of the kind I had ever heard of.” (Read pages 122-123.)
   Mississippi kites and even some swallow-tailed kites have been spotted snatching insects on the fly in the Athens-Monticello area. The Georgia Birders Online listserv include a recent report of more than 30 Mississippi kites seen at one time in southeastern Clarke County.
Bog hatchling photo
    This bog turtle and others hatched earlier this month at Chattahoochee Nature Center. The Roswell center is a partner in the Bog Turtle Headstart Program aimed at helping restore this rare species.
   A federal judge has affirmed a 2008 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opinion that Army Corps of Engineer reservoir operations will not jeopardize the federally threatened Gulf sturgeon and three protected freshwater mussel species – the fat threeridge, purple bankclimber and Chipola slabshell – in Florida’s Apalachicola River. The wildlife agency is working with the corps on a new water control plan for dams on the Chattahoochee River.
   Farmers can offer eligible property for the Conservation Reserve Program until Aug. 27, the end of a general signup period. CRP is a competitive, volunteer program focused on conserving environmentally sensitive lands.
   The emerald ash borer has turned up in Tennessee. The ash-eating Asian pest has spread from Detroit to 14 states, with the discovery in eastern Tennessee’s Knox and Loudon counties spurring a local ban on moving firewood or ash tree products.
   The Tennessee purple coneflower is no longer endangered, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency wants to remove the plant from the list of threatened and endangered species, touting a decades-long cooperative conservation effort and initiating a public comment period that ends Oct. 12.
    In a ruling with wide implications for forest and natural resource management, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a federal permit is required for stormwater runoff from logging roads. The Aug. 17 decision reversed a lower court ruling that muddy runoff is exempt from Clean Water Act regulations.
   The American Bird Conservancy, the Center for Biological Diversity and others have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to ban lead in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle, citing impacts on birds and other animals. The National Shooting Sports Foundation and fellow organizations have returned fire, saying there is no evidence such traditional uses not already restricted are adversely affecting wildlife populations.
   A new version of Jim Miller's book "A Field Guide for the Identification of Invasive Plants in Southern Forests” is available. And though enhanced and more thorough, the revised  General Technical Report SRS-119 is still free.
   Reintroduce whooping cranes in Louisiana? The Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking comment on a proposed rule to establish a nonmigratory flock of the imperiled birds in southwestern Louisiana.
   Housing density will increase on more than 57 million acres of private forests by 2030, according to estimates in the Agricultural Department report “Private Forests, Public Benefits.” Atlanta is projected as one of the metro areas most affected.
   The Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Center for Biological Diversity agreed late last month to dismiss the center’s lawsuit regarding the department’s endangered species permit, a spin-off from the capture and death of the last known jaguar in the U.S. The state’s Game and Fish Commission also fined the private biologist who tried to snare Macho B and revoked his hunting and fishing privileges.

Nongame in the news
Camera imageWMAZ (Macon): "Congressman searches for endangered snake," Rep. Jack Kingston joins Project Orianne, DNR to look for eastern indigos. (Aug. 19)
Bainbridge News: "DNR arrest for deadhead logging," two charged with theft of a log from the bottom of Spring Creek. (Aug. 17)
Savannah Morning News: "Ga. researchers map rare coastal habitats," spotlight on habitat mapping by DNR botanists Jacob Thompson  and Eamonn Leonard for Coastal Georgia Land Conservation Initiative. (Aug. 13) Plus: GPB interview with Leonard about habitat discoveries. (Aug. 13)
All About Animals: "Wilson's plover upswing," first census since 2000 finds triple the estimate of nesting pairs. (Aug. 12)
DailyMe: "Tides, marshes help build up islands," Brunswick News describes marsh, beach dynamics. (Aug. 7)
Coosa Valley News: "Ga. has record year for wood stork nest," endangered species easily surpasses previous high count. (Aug. 4)
The Florida Times-Union: "Sea lions and dolphins serve as elite defense at Kings Bay," animals on watch for swimming intruders at submarine base. (Aug. 1)
The Associated Press: "Feds, farmers create habitats for migrating birds," USDA beefs up wintering spots in eight states to help offset BP spill impacts. (July 29)
All About Animals: "Big season for Georgia's smallest turtle," DNR biologist Thomas Floyd explains how wet weather, increased trapping and management benefited bog turtles. (July 28)
The (Dalton) Daily Citizen: "Bat blitz seeks to strip away myths," inroads to education about misunderstood mammals. (July 27)
Mother Nature Network: "Researchers find rare Georgia habitats," more discoveries by DNR botanists in the Coastal Georgia Land Conservation Initiative. (July 26)
Athens Banner-Herald: "Hemlocks' mortal enemy spreads," as wooly adelgids spread through hemlock range, hopes rest on adelgid-eating beetles. (July 23)
Atlanta Business Chronicle: "Long-term effects of oil spill could reach Ga.," state Senate committee hears that odds are long but Gulf spill could affect water, air quality in state. (July 22)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "A rare azalea adds zest to rugged park," Providence Canyon State Park in southwest Georgia is world's top spot for wild plumleaf azaleas. (July 21)
USDA blog: "Endangered birds benefit from Wetlands Reserve Program," insight into new wood stork rookery near Camilla. (July 20)
The Florida Times-Union: "Sea turtle death a mystery," rehab loggerhead released from Sea Turtle Center found dead on Cumberland. (July 20)
The (Gainesville) Times: "Georgia's blessed with a slew of snakes," DNR's John Jensen discusses state of native snakes. (July 15)
Rome News-Tribune: "Click to conserve: Donating to Ga. wildlife goes online," highlighting Nongame Conservation Section's click-pledge option. (July)

Aug. 25: Georgia DNR Board of Natural Resources monthly meeting, 9 a.m., DNR board room, Atlanta. (pdf of schedule)
Sept. 10-11: State Wildlife Grants 10th anniversary events in Georgia.
Sept. 25: National Hunting and Fishing Day in Georgia.
Sept. 25: National Public Lands Day.
Oct. 5-8: Eastern Native Grass Symposium, Knoxville, Tenn.
Oct. 6: DNR Natural Leaders 2010 awards ceremony, 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Loudermilk Center, Atlanta.
Oct. 8: Go Fish Education Center grand opening, Perry.
Oct. 12-15: Longleaf Alliance Regional Conference, Columbia, S.C.
Nov. 5: Outdoor Classroom Symposium, Zoo Atlanta.
Submit events

Parting shot
Team leader with bat photo

Wildlife consultant Steve Samoray of Tennessee untangles a red bat from a mist net during the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network’s ninth annual Bat Blitz. The event held last month at Fort Mountain State Park drew more than 100 biologists, researchers, managers and students to the park. Learn what they found in this account by Nongame Conservation Section wildlife biologist Trina Morris. (Hint: Two of "them" were endangered.)

Photo credits (from top)
* Masthead: Mississippi kite. Todd Schneider/Ga. DNR:
* S.C. Sea Turtle Coordinator Dubose Griffin with nesting loggerhead in Georgia this summer. Ga. DNR
* Amber darter caught in lower Coosawattee. Brett Albanese/Ga. DNR
* Freckled darter from Coosawattee. Brett Albanese/Ga. DNR
* Bottlenose dolphin. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
* DNR's Suzi Mersmann works a prescribed fire at Ohoopee Dunes Natural Area. Carly Monahan
* Bog turtle hatchling. Henning Von Schmeling/Chattahoochee Nature Center
* Two hummingbirds charging up at a feeder. Terry W. Johnson
* Mountain chorus frog, one of the high-priority species identified in the SWAP. John Jensen
* Steve Samoray removing a red bat from a mist net at the Bat Blitz. Special to Ga. DNR
* Common wood nymph photographed during Big Lazer WMA butterfly count. Terry W. Johnson

Georgia Wild
volume 3, issue 8

Georgia Wild is produced by the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division. The free monthly newsletter is focused on conserving nongame species, those not legally trapped, fished for or hunted. 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 on grants, donations and fundraisers such as nongame license plate sales, the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund state income tax checkoff and Weekend for Wildlife. Details: (770) 761-3035 or (478) 994-1438.

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 Nongame Conservation Section work.

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Loggerheads top nest record
But scientists look to long-term trends

   Blazing heat hasn’t hampered Georgia’s resident sea turtles from having a banner year in nesting.
   As of mid-August, more than 1,700 loggerhead sea turtle nests had been recorded along the coast, from Savannah to St. Mary’s. The previous record high for this threatened species was 1,646 in 2008.worker with sea turtle photo
   Although optimistic about the high numbers, Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologists are quick to remind the public the loggerhead population has a long way to go. “In the 22 years since we have been collecting data, these are the highest numbers we have had,” said Mark Dodd, sea turtle program coordinator. “However, it is more important to look at long-term trends rather than the highs and lows of individual nesting seasons.”
   Added Dodd, "We can't definitively say we are seeing a recovery until we have had a chance to completely analyze all the data, which will not be until after all nests have been counted at the end of the season, after Sept. 1."
   Cumberland Island leads with 472 nests. Blackbeard and Ossabaw islands are not far behind with 251 and 215, respectively.
   Nesting season runs from May until September. While loggerheads are the most common turtle nesting on Georgia’s barrier island beaches, this year’s count includes a total of eight green and leatherback turtle nests, plus another six listed as unknown.
     There were 995 loggerhead nests in 2009, an average season according to recent state data.

amber darter photo

Surprise! Rare darters
found in lower Coosawattee

   The discovery of a federally endangered amber darter in North Georgia’s Coosawattee River raises hope for the survival of a rare fish known from only two other river systems.
   Recent sampling on the Coosawattee below Carters Lake actually produced three surprises: the amber darter (above) and two state-endangered freckled darters (below). Neither species had been documented in the river before.
   The finds reveal the biological diversity of a seldom-sampled waterway. Resource agencies also hope they might factor into the management of flows from Carters Lake dam.
freckled darter photo   Brett Albanese, a senior aquatic zoologist with DNR's Nongame Conservation Section, called the catches “amazing.” The amber darter and a freckled darter were netted July 29; the second freckled darter was caught early this month. Both species had been found only in the nearby Conasauga and Etowah river systems.
   Albanese said scientists need to learn more about the status of amber darters in the Coosawattee, where deep water and swift currents make sampling difficult. Noting that the Etowah population is isolated upstream of Lake Allatoona, he said, “We don’t know if this single fish represents a long-distance dispersal from the Conasauga population or if it is an indicator of a local population. In either case, having a third river where this species can survive decreases its overall risk of extinction.”
   More is better for the slender, 2½-inch-long fish that makes its home in riffles. Annual monitoring has shown a stable population of amber darters in the Etowah but a small and possibly declining population in the Conasauga.
   The recent surveys are part of a yearlong inventory of shallow-water habitats and the small fishes that use them in the Coosawattee and Etowah below lakes Carters and Allatoona. The University of Georgia, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, The Nature Conservancy and the DNR are doing the work downstream of the Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs.
   A deeper understanding of what is in each stretch of river fits Fish and Wildlife Service and Georgia State Wildlife Action Plan priorities. Data can also help guide the federal wildlife agency’s input into a basin-wide update of corps water control plans for Carters and Allatoona. Possible genetic links between amber darters in the Coosawattee and the Etowah and Conasauga will be probed.

Unique river

prescribed fire at Ohoopee Dunes
Headway on sandhills
1st year of four-state project marks progress
By Matt Elliott
In June 2009, Georgia and three neighboring states received a $1 million federal grant to increase the quality, quantity and connectivity of prime sandhill habitat. The three-year project was aimed at benefiting gopher tortoises and as many as 54 other sandhill species that need significant conservation measures.
   Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and groups such as Project Orianne, The Nature Conservancy and the Gopher Tortoise Council provided $1.66 million in matching money and work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant, part of the State Wildlife Grants Competitive Program.
   Plans called for increasing prescribed fire, removing non-native sand pines and overgrown hardwoods, and thinning pine plantations. These efforts are critical to the open canopy and diverse herbaceous groundcover typical of healthy longleaf pine, turkey oak-dominated sandhills.
   The overriding goal: Restore nearly 40,000 acres of priority public and private sandhill sites, rebuilding habitat for the tortoise and other priority species. The project could help keep gopher tortoises off federal endangered or threatened species lists and set the stage for long-term conservation of sandhills species, from hognose snakes to Bachman’s sparrows.
   One year in, the states and partners have made excellent progress.
   Teaming with The Nature Conservancy of Georgia, Georgia DNR conducted prescribed fires on 4,700 acres at high-priority sandhills sites across the Coastal Plain, including Yuchi Wildlife Management Area, Ohoopee Dunes Natural Area, Fall Line Sandhills Natural Area, and private lands in Marion, Taylor, Talbot and Bryan counties. Also, non-native sand pines have been removed or sold for cutting on nearly 1,000 acres of state and private lands.
    At Ohoopee Dunes in Emanuel County, prescribed fire was conducted on more than 1,000 acres. Many of the areas have not seen fire in many years, leading to buildups of woody underbrush and suppression of grassy groundcover. Shan Cammack with DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section planned and led the prescribed fires.
   “Careful planning and execution produced successful entry burns at Ohoopee Dunes this year,” Cammack said. “With strategic ignition, drier sparse areas were burned hotter while sensitive areas with heavy fuel loads and duff were burned cooler.”
   In Florida, the Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership, a land management public-private cooperative, did prescribed burning on more than 8,400 acres of state lands. Sand pine and hardwoods on another 265 acres were cleared.
   In Alabama, The Nature Conservancy of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ State Lands Division burned about 2,500 acres of sandhills on state lands, planted 186 acres of longleaf pine, thinned pine plantations on 122 acres and removed hardwoods on 76 acres.
   During the project’s first year, ecological restoration was initiated on more than 15,000 acres in Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
   The grant also included monitoring to track progress. This component involved baseline gopher tortoise surveys on a subset of properties, plus vegetation sampling and breeding bird surveys.
   All pre-treatment vegetation and monitoring and tortoise surveys have been completed or are in progress. The work has provided some interesting stories.
   Florida is surveying gopher tortoises on the Hutton Unit of the Blackwater Wildlife Management Area in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties. Burrow densities have been low, about 0.1 burrows per acre surveyed. Comparatively, densities on the sand ridges of Townsend WMA in Georgia are about one per acre. At Ohoopee Dunes, they are about 0.7 per acre. In sandier soils on some more-regularly burned longleaf-wiregrass ecosystems of southwest Georgia, densities may reach two to three burrows an acre.
    The low densities at the Hutton Unit may be attributed to several factors, including human predation, which was historically higher in northwestern Florida than other parts of the tortoise’s range, and fire suppression before the state acquired the property in 1998.
   Yet, despite fewer burrows, the search at Hutton is anything but boring.
   According to Barbara Almario with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “Florida’s tortoise survey crew encounters snakes on an almost daily basis. One of the tortoise survey technicians accidentally stepped on an eastern diamondback rattlesnake one day.
   “Fortunately, the snake was a little slow that morning and (the technician) escaped without injury.”
   For the coming year, Georgia DNR is developing restoration plans for several private sites. Federal funding for longleaf planting on state lands has freed some sandhills grant funds. DNR is also considering burning even more acres at Ohoopee Dunes and Townsend, Yuchi and Penholoway WMAs. The hope at Ohoopee is to collaborate with adjacent private landowners on restoring sandhills.

Matt Elliott is a Nongame Conservation Section program manager and coordinator of the sandhills grant work in Georgia.

Out my backdoor
How to number your hummers
By Terry W. Johnson
   August is indeed special. For students, it marks the end of summer vacation. For Georgia sportswomen and men, the opening of squirrel season ushers in the hunting seasons. And for the backyard naturalist, August is truly the month of the hummingbird.
   More hummingbirds visit Georgia backyards this month than at any other time. During hot, sultry August, some homeowners host 100 or more hummingbirds in a day.
hummingbirds photo   When you have the pleasure of watching so many hummingbirds at one time, it is only human nature to wonder how many you are seeing. However, if you have ever tried to count them, you quickly discover it's no easy task. It almost seems like trying to count the stars in the sky.
   The problem has perplexed wildlife watchers and biologists for years. Although nobody has a foolproof census technique, a couple of methods offer fairly reliable estimates.
   More than a decade ago, Arizona hummingbird enthusiast Stephen Russell devised a novel way to estimate numbers based on how much food hummingbirds consume. Russell tried to account for the many variables that can affect consumption, such as weather, bird size and food availability.
    He weighed a gallon of nectar mixed at one part sugar to four parts water, estimated the weight of hummingbirds visiting his feeders, determined that the feeders provided 70 percent of the birds’ energy needs, and even added a percentage of nectar lost to evaporation, bees and other sources.
   He plugged all into a formula and estimated that a gallon of 1:4 nectar would feed 750 hummingbirds a day. If the birds rely totally on feeders, a gallon would feed only 549 birds.
   During his study, Russell found that on one hot August day with hummingbird numbers at their peak, 8,980 fed in his backyard study area. And you thought you had some hummingbirds!
   Anyway, if you know how much food you have in your feeders in the morning and compare what is left by day’s end you can use Russell’s figures to estimate hummingbirds you hosted that day.
   There are other ways to attack the problem. The technique I recommend is also endorsed by the “First Lady of Hummingbirds,” Nancy Newfield (news profile). This Louisiana researcher and author has studied hummingbirds for more than 30 years. Her method is based on hummingbird banding studies that compared the number of banded birds to unbanded birds caught in a backyard during the peak of hummingbird season.
    Keep in mind this technique only works during summer when hummingbirds are most plentiful. In the Peach State, that means right now.
   Simply wait until you think you are looking at the maximum number of hummingbirds using your feeders at one time. Quickly tally the birds you see and multiply by six. This will provide an estimate as to how many different hummingbirds you are feeding during a day. For example, if you count 30 birds, you are actually feeding approximately 180 hungry hummers.
   Regardless of how many hummingbirds are visiting your backyard feeders this August, enjoy them while you can. Come September, their numbers will rapidly dwindle and leave you waiting for next August and a new explosion of hummingbirds.
   For Stephen Russell's calculations by the quart and a “count-with-eyes-closed” method, read Terry’s full column!

Terry Johnson is a former Nongame program manager with the Wildlife Resources Division, a backyard wildlife expert, and executive director of TERN. His column is a regular Georgia Wild feature.

Georgia SWAP: Part V
Grants for the good of wildlife

State Wildlife Grants mark 10 years of success
By Linda May
Decades ago, Congress established funding to conserve game animals and sport fish through taxes on hunting and fishing equipment (the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 and 1950 Dingell-Johnson Sportfish Restoration Act). These consistent sources of funding yielded tremendous success in management and populations of species hunted and fished. However, no direct funding source existed for conserving the 90 percent of our nation’s vertebrate species not hunted, fished or on the Endangered Species List.
   To answer that need, Congress established the first comprehensive funding for wildlife conservation in 2000 through the State Wildlife Grants Program. This program has provided millions to state fish and wildlife agencies over the past 10 years. Each state’s annual portion is based on land area and population.
    The DNR Wildlife Resources Division applies its share – an average of $1.5 million a year – to projects that keep common species common and prevent wildlife from becoming endangered, protecting creatures and habitats before they become too rare and more costly to protect. Requiring states to match the grants assures local ownership and leverages state and private funds for conservation. In this tight-budget era, the State Wildlife Grants Program shows how limited federal dollars can be invested wisely, saving taxpayers’ money in the long run.  
mountain chorus frog photo    To ensure the best use of the grants, Congress charged each state and territory with developing a comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy, also known as a State Wildlife Action Plan, or SWAP. Georgia’s SWAP, completed in August 2005 by the Wildlife Resources Division, guides the use of State Wildlife Grants and other funds. Wildlife throughout the state benefit from the plan’s five broad conservation practices: facilitating land conservation programs, providing financial and technical assistance to private landowners, increasing the use of prescribed fire for habitat restoration, improving wetland protection and restoration methods, and developing a statewide strategy for controlling invasive exotic species.
    The Georgia Land Conservation Program and Conservation Tax Credit Program, created in 2005 and 2006 respectively, have protected about 200,000 acres across the state. In addition, 12,000 acres of state Department of Transportation wetland and stream mitigation lands have been placed under DNR management for wildlife and public recreation. Conservation programs for private landowners also protect wetlands, endangered species, and working farms and forests. (DNR's "Landowner’s Guide to Conservation Incentives in Georgia" was recently updated). 
   State Wildlife Grants allowed the DNR to increase the capacity of its prescribed fire team, leading to the restoration of thousands of acres of high-priority, fire-dependent natural communities on state lands. On average, 33,000 acres have been burned annually for the past five years. DNR staff and conservation partners also collaborated to create a statewide smoke management plan and form the Georgia Prescribed Fire Council.
   While habitat destruction is the main threat to native species, invasive species are the next biggest problem. To combat non-native invaders such as kudzu, Chinese privet, feral hogs and flathead catfish, DNR worked with an advisory committee to develop a statewide invasive species strategy. The department also joined the Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia Department of Agriculture, and University of Georgia as members of the Georgia Invasive Species Task Force in 2009. The task force and the invasive species strategy provide guidance for assessing and controlling harmful non-native plants, animals and disease organisms, protecting native flora and fauna as well as human health and the state’s economy.
    DNR is revising the State Wildlife Action Plan to address new information and conservation challenges. Monitoring and research funded by State Wildlife Grants has provided updated information on the distribution and status of some species and habitats. Also, new threats such as white-nose syndrome in bats have emerged. Recent climate change studies emphasize a greater need to assess the vulnerability of sensitive species and develop strategies to increase their chances of survival. New partnerships and planning initiatives, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, provide opportunities for agencies to assess conservation needs regionally.  
    Wildlife across the U.S. continue to lose habitat every day. State Wildlife Grants help wildlife departments fulfill their responsibility to conserve wildlife and the places they live for future generations. However, this funding is not permanent; it must be appropriated annually by Congress.
   To show your support for continued federal cost-sharing of comprehensive wildlife and habitat conservation in Georgia, come celebrate the 10th anniversary of State Wildlife Grants and the fifth anniversary of Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan next month. DNR is playing host to educational presentations across the state. Topics vary from a Sept. 11 bog turtle conservation at Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell to a guided walk the same day at Doerun Pitcherplant Bog Natural Area in south Georgia. Check out the complete schedule, stay tuned through Facebook Events or sign up for State Wildlife Grants anniversary updates.

On the Net

  • 10th anniversary events in Georgia, including a Sept. 10 SWG logopresentation on Ohoopee Dunes Natural Area and on Sept. 11 a guided hike at Ohoopee Dunes, a privet-pull at Panola Mountain State Park, a bog walk at Doerun Pitcherplant Bog Natural Area and a bog turtle conservation at Chattahoochee Nature Center.
  • Georgia State Wildlife Grant successes
  • Georgia Wild SWAP article series.
Linda May is the environmental outreach coordinator with the Nongame Conservation Section. Comments?

Wood nymph butterfly photo
All eyes on butterflies
Counts, surveys aid conservation, recreation
The July sky over Big Lazer Creek Wildlife Management Area is blue haze and glaring white clouds. In the sweaty heat of late morning, five people with binoculars and cameras fan out across a grown-up field. They are not birding. Their focus is flying jewels of a different sort: butterflies.
   “What’d you get?” somebody asks. Answers vary from least skippers to southern cloudywings, buckeyes, sleepy oranges and pearl crescents.
   More than 170 butterfly species flit through Georgia. The group at Big Lazer near Talbotton logged more than 30 for a North American Butterfly Association count July 14. The volunteer-powered counts dovetail with an effort led by Terry W. Johnson to document butterflies, moths and birds on all state lands.
   Johnson, former manager of what is now the Nongame Conservation Section, sees surveys on WMAs, natural areas and parks as critical for developing holistic conservation plans for each site.
   “We really have no idea of the status of these populations,” or even what species are found on state lands, he said.
   Yet, butterflies are early indicators of environmental change. Many depend on specific plants to feed and lay eggs. As caterpillars and adults, they are food for scores of animals.
   Developing butterfly and moth lists for state lands also enhances watchable wildlife recreation. “Butterflying” is the nation’s fastest-growing watchable wildlife activity, Johnson said.
   Devotees are diverse. The count at Big Lazer, officially the Roland count, included Johnson, retired federal entomologist Jerry Payne and his wife Rose, WMA manager Linda Guy and Kenneth Waldrep, a retired lawyer for the Georgia National Guard.
   Payne is passionate about butterflies. He, like Rose, also knows his stuff, identifying some species at a glance, pointing out host plants and turning over the leaves of a coffee weed to reveal the green, pencil-tip-sized eggs of a sleepy orange.
   His advice for would-be butterfliers: “Learn the common ones. Then go on a butterfly count.”
   Butterfly watching can range from a stroll in the yard to a count spiced with chiggers and heat.
   Guy offered hand towels as sweat rags before the Big Lazer count. The 30-year DNR employee and Big Lazer’s only manager ever is still learning her butterflies. But she considers the effort worth it, even for creatures most overlook.
   “If you see ’em forever and all of a sudden they’re gone, you got a problem,” Guy said.

Join in

  • Butterfly surveys are being conducted on 26 Wildlife Resources Division facilities and 15 Parks and Historic Sites. Johnson wants to develop butterfly and bird lists for all state lands. To help, e-mail him.
  • North American Butterfly Association counts are aimed at monitoring butterfly populations, raising awareness and providing enjoyable events for butterfliers.
  • Counts are categorized as spring, July Fourth/summer and fall. Most are held in June and July.
  • Georgia’s oldest count is at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, started in 1992. The Piedmont NWR/Rum Creek WMA count is second oldest, having been held annually since 1994.


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