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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. We depend on contributions, grants and fundraisers. Meaning we depend largely on you!
How to help?
* Buy a conservation license plate.
* Contribute to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund tax checkoff.
* Donate directly to the Nongame Conservation Section, even online.
* Use GoodSearch for your Internet searches (enter "Georgia Nongame Conservation Fund" under "Who do you GoodSearch for" and click "Verify").
* Join TERN, the Nongame Conservation Section's friends group.

WILD Facts
Animals see with two kinds of cells on their retina, both named according to shape. “Rods” are sensitive and work well in low light but only detect general shapes in black, white and gray. “Cones” require more light to function but distinguish details in color. Birds of prey that are active during the day have densely packed cone cells, allowing them to see details from a distance. Most nocturnal animals have few or no cone cells but lots of rods. This abundance of light-catching cells plus a reflecting layer of tissue (called the tapetum lucidum) allows owls, coyotes and bobcats to see well at night.

In education
Georgia students ninth grade through college have until Dec. 10 to submit a potentially winning design in the University of Georgia State Botanical Garden art competition. The contest, funded by The J.A. and H.G. Woodruff Jr. Charitable Trust, celebrates student talent by using the winning designs to create signature items for the Botanical Garden's gift shop. The winning design wins $1,000. Others can earn $500 to $250, plus certificates of merit. A botanical or nature theme is encouraged (think plants, birds, insects and other animals related to Georgia). Download these guidelines or contact Connie Cottingham, (706) 542-6014 or

At the polls
Voters approved 28 of 35 conservation-funding measures on ballots across the U.S. on Nov. 2, according to The Trust for Public Land. Those measures, which varied from city to statewide initiatives, will generate more than $2 billion for conservation efforts. One example: 62 percent of Iowans voting supported an amendment to dedicate 3/8 of 1 percent of the next sales tax increase for conservation. The newly created Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund would receive an estimated $150 million annually from the next sales tax increase that lawmakers pass. Links to news coverage of conservation finance initiatives are available at Trust for Public Land, with a longer range view recorded in the organization's LandVote® Database.
On a related note, Georgians passed Amendment 4. The constitutional change will allow the state to enter into multi-year contracts to retrofit state buildings for increased energy and water conservation.

Ranger reports
Not loaded for bear, but ... Sgt. Stan Elrod and Ranger 1st Class Tim Vickery were helping Ranger 1st Class Anne Alexander and Kevin Dyer check for illegal bear hunting Oct. 18 in Towns County. Elrod and Vickery were in the Chattahoochee National Forest near the North Carolina line when they saw a vehicle illegally enter the national forest. They observed it -- for about seven hours. When the occupants returned, the rangers determined that the two men had been digging for ginseng. Both were charged for harvesting ginseng without permission. One was also charged for littering. The ginseng was seized. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission rangers were involved in the detail.

American kestrel
Up close
American kestrel
Falco sparverius
Also calledSparrowhawk.
Family: Belongs to the family Falconidae, which includes about 60 species of diurnal birds of prey. In Georgia, the southeastern American kestrel subspecies is state-listed as rare.
Key characteristics: The smallest and most common North American falcon is also the continent’s most colorful. Kestrels are about 8.5 inches long with a wingspan of 21 inches. They have blue-gray crowns, white cheeks with two black “mustache” marks, and short, hooked beaks. Wings are narrow and pointed.
Range: Found from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland. They breed throughout most of Canada south of the tree line and in central Alaska, northern New England, and along the northern tier of states from Michigan to the northern Midwest, Montana and Wyoming. The species is a year-round resident in the rest of the U.S. except for southeastern Texas, parts of coastal Louisiana, southern Mississippi River delta and Alabama, extreme southern Florida, and coastal Washington state.
Habitat: Includes grasslands, pastures, sandhills and open pine forests as well as urban and suburban areas. Kestrels frequent many types of open grassy habitats but are most often noticed in the winter perched on power lines along roadsides. Thousands of migratory kestrels inhabit Georgia from late fall through early spring.
Eats: Large insects, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and small birds, from grcamera artasshoppers to starlings. Occasionally hovers and drops on prey. Most often uses this technique when perches are not available or winds create favorable updrafts.
Sounding off: Call is a loud series of “klee-klee-klee” notes when excited. Kestrels also “whine” – during courtship, feeding and copulation – and “chitter,” the most common vocalization between males and females.
Breeding behavior: Two subspecies breed in Georgia, but only in small numbers. The northern subspecies (Falco sparverius sparverius) breeds above the Fall Line and the southeastern subspecies (Falco sparverius paulus) breeds in the Coastal Plain below the Fall Line. The kestrel is an obligate secondary cavity nester that uses natural tree cavities and old woodpecker holes or other cavities. The breeding season in Georgia begins in late March or April. The female chooses a nest cavity and lays four or five eggs, which are incubated for 26-32 days. Fledging occurs 28-31 days later.
Power nesting: In some areas of the state, kestrels nest in hollow cross-member pipes on power poles, often displacing European starlings. During the first half of the 20th century, the northern subspecies was a fairly common breeder in Georgia above the Fall Line, and the southeastern kestrel was local in distribution below the Fall Line, occurring in relatively small numbers. Surveys in recent years have found kestrels nesting in the hollow arms of power poles in Pierce, Bacon, Coffee, Irwin, Tift, Worth and Dougherty counties. A second population is nesting in similar power line towers in central Georgia from Warner Robins to Butler, and in nest boxes placed on replacement towers in Taylor and Talbot counties. Kestrels are also using boxes placed at Fall Line Sandhills and Black Creek natural areas.
Status: Across their range, kestrel populations increased with historical deforestation in North America. The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the bird as a Species of Least Concern. But the status of local populations varies, mostly due to loss of habitat and nest sites. Threats also include pesticide poisoning and death by collisions with vehicles and by shooting. The southeastern American kestrel is state-listed in Georgia as rare. They are a high-priority species in the state’s Wildlife Action Plan. Breeding kestrels are scarce here. Natural grassland habitats that provide sufficient natural nest sites are the major limiting factor throughout their range.
Outlook: Providing adequately designed nest boxes has increased breeding populations in some areas. While the American kestrel has never bred in large numbers in Georgia, populations seem to have increased in recent years in response to a nest box program established below the Fall Line. Box designs are being evaluated as a replacement for nest sites in hollow power pole cross-members as aging poles are replaced.
How you can help: Providing nest sites in the existing habitats and further conservation of grassland habitats throughout the state will help ensure this species' survival in Georgia.

Largely adapted from an account by John W. Parrish Jr. in “The Breeding Bird Atlas of Georgia” (University of Georgia Press).

   Two adult north Atlantic right whales were spotted last week in ocean waters off Georgia's central coast. The sighting by the EcoHealth Alliance aerial survey team marked the first right whales recorded this calving season in southeastern waters.
   DNR wildlife biologist Clay George was re-elected to the board of the Take Reduction Team at the annual Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan meeting in New Bedford, Mass. The team is a group of stakeholders including military, fisheries and government agency representatives that addresses issues influencing the recovery of large whales on the Atlantic Coast.
   Three southern mollusks have been federally listed as endangered, two found in Georgia -- the Georgia pigtoe mussel and interrupted rocksnail. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also designated critical habitat in the Coosa River drainage for the trio, which includes the rough hornsnail. Related: GPB interview with DNR aquatic zoologist Jason Wisniewski; recent announcement of Endangered Species Act candidates.
   Project FeederWatch began this month. But it's not too late to late the continent-wide citizen scientist project, now in its 24th year.
   It is too late for the Bay Springs salamander. Historically found in a single spring in Mississippi, the woodland salamander has not been seen since 1964 and will not be listed as endangered, the Fish and Wildlife Service decided.
   Plum Creek, in partnership with the Georgia Land Trust and the Georgia Conservancy, recently placed more than 5,200 acres in Liberty County in a permanent conservation easement. The company's Jelks Pasture easement includes upland, marsh and hammocks.
   Restoration at Fall Line Sandhills Natural Area will include a timber thin. A Cochran logging company, which submitted the high bid, will be cutting off-site loblolly pine planted on deep sands at the Taylor County natural area.
   With prescribed fire season drawing near, "ecoburners" have been sweating out wildland fire training refresher courses to remain certified. Prescribed fire is critical for managing fire-dependent natural communities, doubling as a safe way to minimize wildfire risks and the only tool for spurring recovery of some endangered species.
   A new genetics page at documents the nests of individual loggerheads on Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina beaches. The database is rooted in a University of Georgia and DNR project mapping the DNA of nesting turtles.
   Read more about Georgia's banner nesting season for nesting loggerheads, and about the people who monitor them. In Florida, loggerhead nest counts topped the 10-year average by nearly a third.
   The 2011 Weekend for Wildlife will make much of the turtles nesting on Georgia's coast. The theme of the fundraiser for the Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund is, you guessed it, sea turtles.
   EPA's denial of a petition to ban lead in fishing tackle sparked praise and criticism. The American Bird Conservancy, one of the petitioners, called the decision political; the American Sportfishing Association deemed it "commonsense."
   State Wildlife Grants' 10-year camera imageanniversary is profiled in this video. (Hint: SWG has nothing to do with Star Wars and everything to do with conservation, including in Georgia.)
   A national plan for combating white-nose syndrome is open for comment until Dec. 26. The plan will provide a federal and state framework for investigating and responding to the syndrome, blamed in the death of more than 1 million bats and documented in 11 or more states, though not yet in Georgia.
   The new Landscape for Life website helps gardeners work with nature in their home gardens. The environmentally friendly garden site is the work of the United States Botanic Garden and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
   The best photographs from the 2010 Great Backyard Bird Count have been picked. See the finalists chosen by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon from among nearly 7,000 images.

Right Whale Festival
The Right Whale Festival Nov. 20 at Jacksonville Beach in Florida drew a crowd, including this boy who learned about sea turtles at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center booth. See more festival photos.

Nongame in the news
The Augusta Chronicle: "Fish passage is included in corps' harbor project," plans to deepen Savannah Harbor include a fish passage structure at New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam near Augusta, plus more money for Georgia's striped bass program. (Nov. 16)
Savannah Morning News (and others via AP): "Right whales head south to Georgia," researchers begin annual aerial survey of north Atlantic right whales from Charleston to Sapelo Island, with similar survey south of Sapelo starting soon. (Nov. 16) "Right whales get help from above," S.C. State Ports Authority is helping fund aerial tracking of north Atlanta right whales. (Nov. 16)
The Brunswick News: "DNR helps out during manatee rescue," massive mammal had been trapped behind dike at Altamaha Wildlife Management Area. (Nov. 13)
Georgia Public Broadcasting: "Good weather helps sea turtle nests," DNR Sea Turtle Program coordinator Mark Dodd discusses factors behind record season. (Nov. 8)
The (Gainesville) Times: "HemlockFest focuses forest activism in Murrayville," North Georgia festival supports saving eastern and Carolina hemlocks draws more than 1,000. (Nov. 7)
The Brunswick News: "Program spurs oyster reef restoration," used shells are used by DNR Coastal Resources Division and UGA Marine Extension Service for oyster reef restoration. (Nov. 6)
(Newnan) Times-Herald: "Bald eagle spotted in west Coweta," one of several sightings further highlighting eagles' rebound. (Nov. 4)
Savannah Morning News: "Turtle watchers cap 'good year' for loggerheads," DNR release on record loggerhead nesting season. (Nov. 3)
Athens Banner-Herald: "Johnson: Turn your used pumpkin into wildlife treat," Terry W. Johnson's October e-news column about wild uses for pumpkins. (Nov. 3)
Georgia Public Broadcasting: "Mussel species get protection status," DNR aquatic zoologist Jason Wisniewski discusses status of Georgia pigtoe mussel, interrupted rocksnail and rough hornsnail, newly named to federal endangered species list. (Nov. 2)
Athens Banner-Herald: "Native plants beginning to grow on gardening enthusiasts," State Botanical Garden of Georgia course reveals interest in native plants. (Oct. 28)
Savannah Morning News: "Georgia's sea turtles DNA fingerprinted," ongoing UGA/DNR project aims to ID all loggerheads nesting on Georgia coast. (Oct. 26)
Chattanooga Times Free Press: "Darter housecleaning gets help from carpet recycler," carpet industry, Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, Conasauga River Alliance and DNR team to clean up spring for coldwater darters. (Oct. 26)
Outdoor Alabama: "Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center officially opens," state wildlife agency dedicates center for conserving and restoring rare and endangered native freshwater mussels and snails in Alabama. (Oct. 20)

Feb. 4-5: Weekend for Wildlife, Sea Island.
Feb. 25-26: Georgia River Network annual conference, Roswell.
Submit events

Photo credits (from top)
* In masthead: Florida biologist Ryan Berger coordinates the capture of a manatee in a dike at Altamaha WMA. DNR biologist Clay George is operating the boat . Ga. DNR
* Eagles nest near Wrens. Curtis Compton/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
* A flock of American coots on Lake Strom Thurmond/Clarks Hill near Augusta. Curtis Compton/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
* A dead eagle. Jim Ozier/Ga. DNR
* Male southeastern American kestrel. Jessi Brown/Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
* Sarah Barlow with a Fowler's toad at Sandy Creek Nature Center. Rick Lavender/Ga. DNR
* American shad. Don Harrison/Ga. DNR
* Commercial shad angler.  Don Harrison/Ga. DNR
* Young, male rufous hummingbird at a feeder in Bibb County. Terry W. Johnson
* Georgia Sea Turtle Center staff talk turtles with child at the Right Whale Festival. Kristina Summers/Ga. DNR
* Rescue team quickly checks the manatee before releasing it into the Altamaha River. Clay George/Ga. DNR

Georgia Wild
volume 3, issue 11

This is: A free monthly e-newsletter produced by DNR and focused on nongame wildlife. Subscribe or see previous issues.

Nongame: Wildlife not legally trapped, fished for or hunted, plus native plants and natural habitats.

We are: The Wildlife Resources Division's Nongame Conservation Section. Our mission: Conserve and protects Georgia's diversity of native animals and plants and their habitats through research, management and education. It's worth repeating that we depend on grants, donations and fundraisers such as nongame license plate sales, the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund state income tax checkoff and Weekend for Wildlife.

Buy a tag: Nongame license plates – the eagle and hummingbird – are available at county tag offices, by checking the wildlife license plate box on mail-in registration forms and through online renewal.

More info:
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Bald eagles on nest. Curtis Compton/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Deadly appetites
Toxin in prey proves fatal for eagles
By Jim Ozier
    It is Thanksgiving Day and a hunting bald eagle spies a dozen wild turkeys in a Georgia Piedmont field. Oblivious to the symbolism, and the fact that Benjamin Franklin waged an unsuccessful campaign to have the other bird represent our fledgling country, the eagle circles once to assess the potential for an easy meal. The nervous turkeys trot smartly to the cover of a woodlot, so the eagle loses interest and continues toward a nearby reservoir where it has often found the fish, turtles and waterbirds that are its more typical quarry.
   As it arrives over open water, the eagle notices a familiar and tantalizing sight. In a distant cove, several hundred dark-gray, duck-like birds float on the waves. Each one periodically dives with a small splash, then bobs to the surface a few seconds later, a strand of aquatic greenery trailing from its bill.
   The birds are American coots, and the aquatic plant is hydrilla, an invasive, exotic weed. The coots arrived in early November, ending their fall migration and feeding heavily on the abundant hydrilla.
   As they gobble up the submerged plants, the coots incidentally swallow cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, of the genus Stigonematales that colonize the surfaces of the leaves. Apparently, at this time of year in particular these algae pack an unexpected punch – a powerful neurotoxin.American coots: Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution
   The coots notice the approaching predator and instinctively cluster into a group. The eagle circles, hoping to pick out an easy target, but there are not yet any obvious weaknesses in the tightly packed flock. A little hungrier now, and not willing to give the coots an easy bye as it did the turkeys, the eagle stoops sharply downward. At the last second the coots splash under, almost as one body.
   Several, however, thrash clumsily on the surface, not quite able to coordinate their wings and feet into an effective dive. The accumulating toxin has deteriorated the myelin sheaths of their brain cells, creating vacuoles, or empty spaces, in the cells and resulting in a lack of communication between the coot’s brain and body.
   The eagle banks and gracefully plucks a struggling coot from the water. The struggles quickly subside and the eagle lands on an exposed shoreline to eat its fill of coot flesh. In doing so, the eagle consumes some of the toxin.
   A few days and a few coots later, the eagle begins loosing coordination, crashes to the ground under its roost tree and dies within a few hours. And so continues the cycle of a condition that scientists now call Avian Vacuolar Myelinopathy, or AVM.
   Coot and Eagle Brain Lesion Syndrome (CEBLS), as the mysterious disease was originally called, was discovered at DeGray Lake in Arkansas in 1995. Shortly after, it was noted in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and then Texas. Although the scenario suggested above has not been proven and the toxin has not been isolated or identified, supporting evidence indicates that the abundant new Stigonematales cyanobacteria, which grows on several submerged aquatic plants but seems to especially thrive on hydrilla, produce a chemical that debilitates or kills waterfowl that consume them. The toxin then apparently causes secondary poisoning when passed along to scavengers or predators that feed on affected waterfowl.
   Diagnosis consists of examining brain sections under a microscope to determine the presence of myelin vacuoles.Dead eagle
   Although occurrences of AVM appear restricted to a few locations so far, it has nearly halted successful eagle nesting wherever it is found. The lower reaches of Strom Thurmond Reservoir north of Augusta on the Savannah River have been a relative hotspot for AVM. A few eagle carcasses are discovered there each year and four nesting territories have apparently ceased to exist or become unproductive. Further north on the reservoir there is far less hydrilla and eagle nesting territories have not been affected.
   Other Georgia sites where AVM has been detected and dead eagles found include Lake Juliette, Lake Varner and some small reservoirs just south of Atlanta. Biologists with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Nongame Conservation Section are working with scientists at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, both at the University of Georgia, to unravel the mysteries of AVM.
   But even if the suspected pathway and the contributing factors are discovered, that doesn’t mean an effective control strategy will be apparent. It’s possible the Stigonematales cyanobacteria are naturally occurring but do not typically reach concentrations to cause noticeable problems except on a landscape altered by dense stands of exotic plants in artificially impounded waterways of certain chemical and physical properties. A potential measure might be the attempted control of hydrilla at key sites using chemicals or sterile grass carp.
   Perhaps, with a little more time and money for research, the secrets of AVM will be revealed. Until then, we can at least be thankful it has cropped up only in a few locations.

Jim Ozier is a program manager with the Nongame Conservation Section. He also coordinates DNR’s annual bald eagle surveys.

Sarah Barlow and Fowler's toad
Vols answer frogs' call

    Sarah Barlow had a small problem. She had a deep knowledge and interest in frogs and toads, including two wildlife degrees focused on herps and a thesis exploring frogs’ use of restored wetlands. But the former city of Savannah environmental planner had no place to apply all of that experience.
   “I had all these strong (frog) identification skills that I wasn’t able to use,” Barlow said.
   The answer: NAAMP. Developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program is an international study investigating the distribution and relative abundance of amphibians across the continent. NAAMP depends on frog-savvy volunteers who monitor local listening routes three times a year.
   Barlow signed up last year. She contacted Georgia NAAMP coordinator John Jensen, practiced her frog-ID skills and passed the required online quiz. She even drove her rural, 10-mile route near Glennville beforehand, checking out the habitat at the set listening sites (a preview she recommends for new volunteers).
   Barlow then squeezed the two hours-plus it took per survey into her already hectic schedule. The result? What she described as “a very relaxing way to spend the evening.”
   Considering the fieldwork she did in Louisiana for her thesis, “This was a lot tamer than being in the middle of a bayou on a four-wheeler,” she said laughing. “This was country club frogging!”
   Enjoyable and vital. Frogs can serve as sentinels of environmental change. NAAMP monitoring data is analyzed for patterns of amphibian decline, stability or increase on local and wider levels.
   Jensen, a senior wildlife biologist with the Nongame Conservation Section, said more surveys are needed to pinpoint trends in this state. 2011 marks only the fourth year of Georgia’s involvement. But the immediate payback has included volunteers identifying lesser-known frogs in areas the species had not been documented before, Jensen said.
   He’s hoping for more volunteers for 2011. Forty-five of the state’s 73 routes were covered this year. Most of the unassigned routes are in south Georgia.
   Jensen suggested would-be volunteers check their frog ID abilities (see below), then contact him by e-mail,, or phone at DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section office in Forsyth, (478) 994-1438. The first listening window next year opens Jan. 15. Volunteers have until the end of February to run their route.
   Barlow is now a naturalist at Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens. She plans to look for a 2011 route closer to home. But she will be putting her frog skills back into play, calling the citizen-powered NAAMP surveys “important work to be done.”

Lend an ear
Hone your skills at one of these websites, or buy a copy of the CD "Calls of the Wild – Vocalizations of Georgia's Frogs" from DNR, (478) 994-1438. (The $15.36 cost per CD goes to Georgia’s Wildlife Conservation Fund.) (search for "Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia")

NAAMP newcomers
  • Gauge your frog ID skills before volunteering. (Deciphering species when multiple frogs are calling is where it gets a little tricky, Jensen said.) If unsure, first try the public quiz at NAAMP.
  • Don’t be daunted. While Georgia has more than 30 frog and toad species, all are not heard on one route. Barlow  said she heard, on average, about eight kinds. She advises practicing, plus previewing your route.
  • Expect a reward. One, the work helps monitor impacts of habitat change, such as the loss of temporary wetlands. Two, as Barlow said, learning to ID wildlife by sound builds “a greater appreciation of being in the woods.”

American shad
Shad limits spurred
in part by sturgeon

   America’s founding fish is floundering.
   American shad, focus of “The Founding Fish” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author John McPhee, have been harvested for meat and roe for centuries during their spawning runs up Atlantic Coast rivers. But decades of decline due to habitat degradation, dams and overfishing pushed stocks to all-time lows by 2007. That prompted the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to clamp a moratorium on commercial and recreational shad fishing – unless a state can show its fishery is sustainable.
Commercial shad fisherman   Approved in February, Amendment 3 to the commission’s shad and river herring plan gave states until 2013 to each come up with an approved sustainability plan.
   Yet, Georgia had a reason to start sooner.
   A University of Georgia study found that from 2007 to 2009, about 600 federally endangered shortnose sturgeon were accidentally caught in nets set by commercial shad anglers on the Altamaha River. Although most of the sturgeon were released and few died, the National Marine Fisheries Service required Georgia to reduce the bycatch of these rare fish.
   The Board of Natural Resources made moves to address this issue last month. Members approved closing the Oconee, Ocmulgee, Satilla and St. Marys rivers to commercial shad fishing and reducing areas of the Altamaha, Savannah and Ogeechee open to commercial shad fishing. Also, when shad season begins Jan. 1, the Ogeechee downstream of the Ga. 204 bridge will be open only on Fridays and only for drift nets, which are usually checked more often than set nets, explained DNR shad project manager Don Harrison.
   The Ogeechee marked a concession. An original proposal listed the river as off-limits.
   The regulations, which do not affect recreational fishing, will help spare sturgeon and shad. Though shortnose sturgeon were the immediate issue, “What we’ve done will also satisfy Amendment 3 requirements,” Harrison said.
   The hard work now is monitoring impacts on both species.
   Doug Haymans of DNR’s Coastal Resources Division said most Atlantic Coast states are in the middle of rule making. Some have decided to simply shut down commercial shad fishing.
   As elsewhere, Georgia shad stocks are a shadow of what they once were. The Altamaha and Savannah provide the most commercial harvest, slightly more than 21 tons valued at $37,000 in 2009.
   State fisheries managers hope the new regulations will provide a payoff, for shad and shortnose sturgeon.

Shad shorts
Anadromous: American shad are hatched in freshwater rivers, migrate to saltwater to spend most of their lives -- largely in the Bay of Fundy -- and return to spawn in natal rivers (most of Georgia's shad die after spawning).
Range: Southern Labrador to northern Florida along the Atlantic Coast. An introduced population lives on Pacific Coast.
State record (sportfish): 8 pounds, 3 ounces. Caught by Henry Baxley in the Savannah River on April 5, 1986.

Winter hummers on way
Variety spices second hummingbird season
By Terry W. Johnson
Now that November is here, more than likely you haven’t seen a ruby-throated hummingbird in your backyard for quite some time. My wife and I were fortunate to see one as late as Halloween eve. However, we haven’t spotted one since and I guess this bird, too, has departed on its epic flight to wintering grounds across the Gulf of Mexico.
   We were sad to see it leave. However, with November here, we are excited that Georgia’s second hummingbird season has arrived.
   During this special time of the year, we have a chance to play host to more species of hummingbirds than at any other time. Georgia’s second hummingbird seasons extends from November through February. While there aren’t a lot of hummingbirds winging about the state during this four-month period, more species are seen. In fact, most of the hummingbirds spotted during this, the coldest, time of the year, are only seen in Georgia during these months.
Young rufous hummingbird2
   When the state’s Nongame-Endangered Wildlife Program – now known as the Nongame Conservation Section – began researching hummingbirds in 1988, only two species of hummers were known to occur in Georgia, the ruby-throated and rufous. One major reason for this was that most people took their hummingbird feeders down in September or October. The mistaken yet popular belief was that if you left feeders up longer, hummingbirds would not migrate and subsequently die with the onset of cold weather.
   We now know that nothing is further from the truth. You can’t stop hummingbirds from migrating with food. If you stop and think about it, when hummingbird numbers began to wane a few weeks ago, your feeders were brimming with sugar water and the flowers in your gardens were full of nectar and tiny insects. In spite of this smorgasbord of sugary delights, the birds left.
   Hummingbirds migrate in response to declining day length, not food abundance.
   Concern for the birds’ well being during frigid weather was also unfounded. Hummingbirds can weather temperatures that dip into the teens and below. They accomplish this, in part, because they can go into torpor. When in torpor, the bird’s heart and breathing rates and body temperature drop dramatically, reducing the energy needed to survive frigid temperatures.
   Wintering hummingbirds eat a variety of foods. In addition to the sugar water put out for them, they consumer nectar found in winter-blooming flowers such as leatherleaf mahonia. On warm winter days, hummingbirds will also dine on small insects that periodically hatch throughout the winter months.
    Another important source of food is provided by the yellow-bellied sapsucker, a winter resident throughout the state. This unusual woodpecker excavates tiny holes in living trees such as fruit trees, oaks, pecans and others. When sap wells up in the holes, the sapsucker licks up the sweet fluid with the aid of a brush-like structure on the tip of its bill. Other animals such as butterflies, squirrels, Carolina chickadees and hummingbirds long ago discovered this food source.
   Once Nongame and other organizations got the word out that folks should keep at least one feeder out throughout fall and winter, the list of hummingbirds seen in Georgia began to grow.
   While the ruby-throated is the only species known to nest here, it is rarely seen in most parts of Georgia during winter. Most of the birds spotted in winter are seen along the coast and in the Thomasville area.
   Instead, the rufous hummingbird holds the title of being the most commonly seen hummingbird throughout winter in Georgia. No stranger to the cold, this bird nests as far north as southeastern Alaska. The vast majority winter in Mexico. However, for decades increasingly greater numbers of these birds have been seen wintering throughout the Southeast. Each year upward of 100 or more sightings of rufous hummingbirds are reported in Georgia.
   The list of other hummingbirds seen here from time to time during winter includes the black-chinned, calliope, Anna’s, Allen’s, broad-tailed, broad-billed, magnificent, buff-bellied and green-breasted mango. Most of these birds breed in the western U.S.
   The best way for you to spot a wintering hummingbird is to leave at least one feeder up throughout the winter. Fill it about half full of nectar. Hummingbirds can show up anytime throughout the second season. When one does appear, there is no way to predict how long it will stay. Some are only seen a time or two, while others stay for a few days, weeks or even until spring. Some return to the same backyard or neighborhood year after year.
   Trying to attract a wintering hummingbird is much like playing the lottery. Chances are you won’t have one show up. However, if one does, you are indeed very lucky, and in for a real treat.

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 of the Nongame Conservation Section. His column is a regular Georgia Wild feature.

The 12th bird
A 12th species of hummingbird, the green-violet eared hummingbird, has been reported in Georgia several times during the late summer. Because it has not yet been photographed or otherwise documented, however, the Georgia Ornithological Society has not placed the green-violet eared hummingbird on the official list of birds found in the Peach State.  

How to rescue a manatee?
Manatee rescue

   With skill, strength and teamwork.
   This 900-pound juvenile found trapped in an Altamaha Wildlife Management Area canal was netted, rolled onto a stretcher, hoisted 50-feet across a dike and released into the Altamaha River Oct. 25. The team of rescuers included 16 biologists, wildlife technicians and animal keepers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Jacksonville Zoo and DNR's Wildlife Resources and Coastal Resources divisions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also had a hand in the effort.
   So did the manatee, an endangered species.
   Staff noticed that the 9-foot-long mammal appeared attracted to the sound of a jonboat motor. So they used a small boat and motor to lure the manatee into a corner of the impoundment (see newsletter masthead), where others encircled it with a net.
   If the manatee had not been moved to the river, where it could migrate south, falling water temperatures in the coming months would likely have proved fatal. Biologists think the manatee made it over the dike during an unusually high tide in September.

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