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Georgia DNR's Nongame Conservation Section receives no state funds to conserve nongame wildlife, native plants and natural habitats. We depend on contributions, grants and fundraisers, such as the eagle and hummingbird license plates. How can you help?
Wild Facts
The feathers of many songbirds look a bit ragged in late summer, with some birds having bare spots on their bodies or balding heads. This loss of feathers is called molting, and it is completely normal. After the breeding season, birds gradually lose their worn-out feathers and get new ones by fall.  Wing feathers are lost one at a time on each wing, and new feathers grow in before more are dropped – that way, the bird can still fly. All birds go through a late-summer molt, and some species will molt again in the spring to get brightly colored plumage for breeding season.
-- Linda May
Nongame Conservation Section
environmental outreach coordinator

In education
A $1,000 grant from the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division and TERN will help one Georgia third-grade educator teach students about life sciences this school year. The teacher must demonstrate "exceptional energy and innovation." Selection is based on project design and answers to proposal questions. Deadline to apply is Oct. 1. Apply here. The 2011 recipient will be announced in late October. Wildlife Resources and The Environmental Resources Network, friends group for the division's Nongame Conservation Section, first offered the grant in 2010.
DC talk
Congress' decision to raise the U.S. debt ceiling postponed decisions on conservation funding, including for State Wildlife Grants. Next step: Fit about $1.04 trillion worth of federal discretionary spending into the fiscal 2012 and 2013 budgets. That is about $24 billion and $20 billion less, respectively, than in 2011, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Office of Management and Budget has told agencies to prepare 2013 budgets 5 and 10 percent smaller than in 2011, targeting low-priority and ineffective programs." What will be cut and how much has not been decided. It's possible the House Interior Appropriations bill that would slice State Wildlife Grants by 64 percent, or nearly $40 million, could be voted on after Labor Day, when Congress returns from a summer recess. But one outlook is that a short-term spending resolution will be proposed, followed by an omnibus, or overall, bill. The Teaming with Wildlife coalition calls the House funding insufficient. State Wildlife Grants are the nation's core program to help states prevent wildlife from becoming endangered.

Ranger report
The 2008 shooting of a Florida panther in West Georgia ended in a guilty plea Aug. 24. David Adams, formerly of Newnan and now living in Ohio, was sentenced in federal court to two years probation and a $2,000 fine for unlawful take of the panther, an endangered species. Adams also cannot hunt in the U.S. during his probation. He killed the panther while deer hunting in Troup County. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Adams knew he was shooting a species of cougar, for which there is no open season in Georgia. The bullet entered the animal at the back of the rib cage by the right hindquarters and lodged in the right front shoulder. Testing showed this panther was an offspring of a Florida panther in south Florida.

Cherokee darter

Up close

Cherokee darter
Etheostoma scotti
These small darters are endemic to the Etowah River watershed and known from only about 20 small tributaries. Federally and state-listed as threatened, Cherokee darters dine on aquatic invertebrates and live in the riffles habitat of small- to medium-sized streams.

Read more about Cherokee darters and other rare Georgia wildlife in DNR's rare species profiles.

Did you see?
Camera imageDNR's Trina Morris in this Smithsonian Institute video about white-nose syndrome and possible links to caving.
Savannah State University students helping DNR with a beached pygmy sperm whale on Tybee Island.
Photos of the recent Turtle Talk at Charlie Elliott Wildife Center.

Sea turtle icon
Tracking sea turtles

A Georgia sea turtle nesting update from*

Nests: 2,000 (112 lost, 5.6%)
Relocated: 832 (41.6%)
Eggs estimate: 174,924
Eggs lost: 4,240 (2.4%)
Eggs hatched: 104,924 (65.8%)
Emerged hatchlings: 95,535 (59.9%)

*As of Aug. 28 for all sea turtle species nesting on Georgia beaches. Here's a complete look at real-time data and beach reports.

   As part of a bog turtle detectability study done in cooperation with UGA researchers, 31 bog turtles were captured and released this summer in Georgia, five for the first time. Only about 80 of the federally listed turtles are known from the state.
   DNR staff surveying the upper Flint River drainage in Coweta and Spalding counties found state-threatened Barbour's map and alligator snapping turtles, significantly extending the known range for the primarily Coastal Plain species.
Wings and Wildlife logo
   Speaking of the Flint, the Flint RiverQuarium will offer everything from guided bird walks to up-close sessions with reptiles during its 2011 Wings & Wildlife Festival, Sept. 24-25. Details: or (229) 639-2650.
    Five southeastern fishes are being added to the federal endangered species list: the Cumberland darter (Kentucky, Tennessee), the rush darter (Alabama), yellowcheek darter (Arkansas), and the chucky madtom and laurel dace (Tennessee).
Bat kiosk at Catoosa County park
   A new kiosk at Ringgold's Elsie Holmes Nature Park provides information on Chickamauga Cave, a private, gated cave nearby, and with style: the metal roof is designed as a big but anatomically correct bat wing!
   How goes the war on invasive plants in Georgia? Find out at the same-named symposium of the annual Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council meeting, set for Oct. 6 at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens.
   Learn how to enhance and protect coastal biodiversity, from backyard gardens to neighborhood landscapes, in an Oct. 8 conference in Richmond Hill organized by the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve and Coastal Wildscapes.
DNR's John Jensen and gopher frog metamorphs
   More than 1,000 gopher frog metamorphs have been released this year at Williams Bluffs, a long-term effort to re-establish the rare frogs at The Nature Conservancy preserve near Blakely. (Above, DNR senior biologist John Jensen helps prep the latest batch -- one frog per condiment cup -- at Atlanta Botanical Garden.)
   Thirteen students from Lithonia's Arabia Mountain High School were picked for The Nature Conservancy's LEAF program and spent a month honing enviro interests and leadership skills at sites from North Dakota to south Georgia's Moody Forest Wildlife Management Area and Fort King George.
   A wild cougar killed crossing a road in Connecticut on June 11 is, according to genetic tests, the same animal spotted in eastern Minnesota in December 2009, more than 1,000 miles away. According to The Cougar Network, the big cat had also been documented in Wisconsin and New York, and its DNA is most closely related to a cougar population in South Dakota's Black Hills.
   New on the bookshelf: "Drifting into Darien," by Janisse Ray, the Georgia author with deep roots in the Altamaha region, and "Rocks of the Piedmont," by Dan Williams, forest resources manager at UGA.

Nongame in the news "What is killing the bats?"
Ohio DNR: "Lake Erie watersnake population rebounds"
AgriLife Today (Texas): "Researchers discover freshwater mussel species thought to be extinct" "Island bats & long nights mark start of long-term survey"
The Outdoor Wire: "New life for Georgia's Oaky Woods rare prairies"
Penn State: "Rural road maintenance may accidentally push spread of invasive plants"
PloS ONE: "Some causes of the variable shape of flocks of birds"
Wisconsin State Journal: "Whooping crane recovery effort hampered by nesting issues"
Savannah Morning News: "Engineered turtles take the hit for science in Bloomingdale"
BBC: "Killer plant 'eats' great tit at Somerset nursery"
Savannah Morning News: "Tybee turtle 'Clover' set free"
Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority: "Experts refute alleged 23 whooping crane deaths"
Outdoor Alabama: "Return of the eastern indigo"
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer: "New digs, New animals, New adventure: Renovated Oxbow Meadows center opens this weekend"
Dahlonega Nugget: "Bald eagle spotted at reservoir"

Sept. 17-18: Outdoors photography workshop with John Reed, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Folkston.
Sept. 20-22: Shortleaf Pine Conference, Monte Sano State Park, Huntsville, Ala.
Sept. 24: Georgia Naturalist Rally (with butterfly symposium track), Stone Mountain Park (by Stone
Mountain Memorial Association and MAG).
Oct. 1: CoastFest, DNR Coastal Regional Headquarters, Brunswick.
Oct. 6: State of the War on Invasive Plants in Georgia, Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council symposium, State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Athens.
Oct. 8: Open the Garden Gate conference by Coastal WildScapes and Sapelo Island National Estuarine Reserve, City Center, Richmond Hill.
Oct. 21: Georgia Outdoor Learning Symposium, Georgia Perimeter College, Decatur Campus.
Nov. 4-5: HemlockFest, Starbridge Sanctuary, Dahlonega.

Photo credits (from top)
* In masthead: Boat-tailed grackle drinking from faucet. Todd Schneider/Ga. DNR:
* Map of Chinquapin's travels. College of William & Mary Center for Conservation Biology
* Georgia DNR biologist Tim Keyes holds Chinquapin as the bird is outfitted with a tiny radio transmitter in May 2010. Ga.  DNR
* Teachers do an oil simulation clean-up exercise at McDuffie Environmental Education Center. Ga. DNR
* Cherokee darter. Byron Freeman/UGA
* Bumble bee pollinating blueberries. Athena Rayne Anderson
* Bat-wing kiosk at Elsie Holmes Nature Park. Ga. DNR
* DNR senior biologist John Jensen preparing gopher frog metamorphs for release at Atlanta Botanical Garden. Atlanta Botanical Garden
* Sweat bee. Athena Rayne Anderson
* Indigo bunting cooling off in a bird bath. Todd Schneider/Ga. DNR
* Pygmy sperm whale stranded at Tybee Island. Ga. DNR
Whimbrel, 1; hurricane, 0

Shorebird with ties to Georgia weathers Irene
   What's a Category 3 hurricane to a whimbrel intent on migrating south?
Map tracking whimbrel flight   A whimbrel fitted with a small solar-powered transmitter in Georgia a year ago (bottom left) was tracked last week flying through Hurricane Irene. The pigeon-sized shorebird named Chinquapin survived the storm and found temporary refuge on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas.
   Chinquapin, named for a creek on Little Egg Island Bar where it was captured and released in May 2010, is part of a long-term project including other whimbrels and The Center for Conservation Biology, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program and Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.
   The study isBiologist Tim Keyes with Chinquapin in 2010 revealing the resources these birds need, such as seasonal foods and nesting habitat, while also underscoring the importance of healthy coastal landscapes.
   How migratory birds navigate around and survive major storm systems also has been an open question. Understanding the process is important because the Caribbean Basin serves as a major flyway for many bird species that migrate from breeding grounds in North America to winter in South America during the peak of hurricane season, according to The Center for Conservation Biology.
   Last August, Chinquapin skirted Tropical Storm Colin, landing at Puerto Rico to cap a 3,470-mile non-stop flight.
   Georgia DNR Nongame Conservation Section biologist Tim Keyes said that if history is an indicator, this whimbrel has miles more to go. Chinquapin wintered in Suriname last year.

New high for loggerheads
   Loggerhead sea turtles closed in on a conservation milestone this summer.
   With nesting season all but over, the 1,966 loggerhead nests recorded on Georgia beaches as of Aug. 28 fell just shy of the 2,000 mark researchers have been hoping to reach for decades. The total will change slightly, but it already is a state record that doubles the historic average and extends a streak of nest increases in recent years.
   “This makes us hopeful we’re at the beginning of a recovery,” said Mark Dodd, coordinator of the Georgia Sea Turtle Program.
   Recovery for federally threatened loggerheads is defined as a 2 percent population increase over a 50-year period resulting in a total of 2,800 nests a year. Monitoring by the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative and efforts to reduce threats such as predation and fishing mortality are pushing these massive turtles toward that monumental goal.

Teachers learning at  McDuffie Environmental Education Center

Nature taught here

DNR centers specialize in outdoors education
By Linda May
  Why do you love the outdoors? Many people mention memorable outdoor experiences as a child. For others, nature’s sights, sounds and smells make them feel peaceful, refreshed, energized and more spiritually connected.  Research shows that environmental education even improves student achievement.  
   Considering the benefits, why don’t we get outside more? Barriers include packed schedules and a plethora of electronic devices begging for our attention. Perhaps you never had an outdoors mentor, so you're worried about what lurks outside. Or maybe you’re not sure how to access natural areas near you.
   Whether you’re a seasoned naturalist or a novice, DNR offers many opportunities for you to experience the outdoors. In addition to wildlife management, public fishing and natural areas, plus state parks, DNR and partner agencies operate seven regional education centers:     The educational mission of the Wildlife Resources Division is to cultivate an appreciation and understanding of Georgia’s wildlife resources, fostering wise stewardship of these resources, and promoting safe and ethical natural resource-based recreation. Primarily designed for children, regional education center activities are correlated to Georgia Performance Standards. Our talented staff is accepting field trip reservations for the 2011-2012 school year. Be sure to tell your child’s teachers and school administrators about these great places to learn outside the classroom!
  The public can enjoy the trails, fishing ponds, archery and shooting ranges, and interpretive displays at many of these DNR education centers (state licenses apply). Some locations offer teacher workshops and outreach programs, where an interpretive specialist brings live animals and nature props to schools and libraries. Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center also has a conference center and banquet hall for renting, plus lodge rooms and plenty of public programs.
   Opportunities vary at each center and may be limited to certain county school systems or reserved groups only, so click the links above for details.
   Hope to see you in the great outdoors soon!          

Upcoming events include ...

Linda May is environmental outreach coordinator for the Wildlife Resources Division's Nongame Conservation Section.

Bumblebee on blueberry blooms

Native bees deserve the buzz

   Did you know that every third bite of food you eat is made possible by bees?
   Most people know honey bees are important for pollinating fruits and vegetables, but did you know they’re not the only bees that do this? There are a variety of fascinating and beautiful native bees that pollinate our crops and wild plants, too.
   Honey bees were brought to North America by early European settlers. Most of what folks know about bees as a group was learned from honey bees. However, honey bees are very different from the majority of other bees in the world. For instance, most bees live solitary lives, rather than with relatives. Most bees don’t store large quantities of food in the form of honey. Also, most bees are gentle!
Sweat bee   More than 4,000 species are native to the U.S. A native bee is simply one that is “from” an area. You’ve probably seen some native bees, even if you haven’t thought about it. Maybe you’ve seen bumble bees visiting blueberries (above) in spring. Or tiny sweat bees (right) licking perspiration from your skin in summer. What about carpenter bees, whose females tunnel into soft wood to lay their eggs?
  There are also mining bees, leaf-cutter bees, alkali bees, polyester bees and squash bees, just to name a few! All depend on pollen and nectar for survival as larvae and adults. Many of these native bees are more effective pollinators of crops and wild plants on a per-bee basis than honey bees!
   The number of honey bee colonies and beekeepers has been declining in the U.S. for several decades. The great news is wild native bees can do all the pollinating needed if given a chance!
   But they need our help. Native bees need these three things to survive:
  1. Something in bloom from early spring into autumn. Native bees do best when they always have native flowers to visit.
  2. Nesting habitat. Most native bees nest in the soil, so leaving bare patches in sunny spots is key. Other native bees nest in stems and twigs. Leaving forested areas intact also helps.
  3. Protection from pesticides. The chemicals used to kill crop pests kill also native pollinating bees! Finding ways to apply pesticides so they won’t harm bees can boost their numbers. Eliminating pesticide use is even better.
   Visit to learn more about native bees and other pollinators, and to join the Pollinator Conservation Movement!

Athena Rayne Anderson is a University of Georgia doctoral student in ecology studying native bee pollination. She is also author of, a site dedicated to pollinator information, resources and community.

Out my backdoor
Backyard wildlife
feeling the heat, too

By Terry W. Johnson
   Has it been hot enough for you?
   When temperatures soar daily into the mid to high 90s and heat indexes top 100 degrees, most of us retreat to air-conditioned comfort. Not so our wildlife neighbors. Yet, don’t feel guilty. Although the furnace-like heat does stress them, animals have a variety of fascinating ways to survive it.
   As temperatures rise, one of the first things we do is exchange heavy garments for lighter, cooler ones. Likewise, many animals also “dress” for the season.
   Some birds are cloaked with fewer feathers in summer than winter. The beautiful American goldfinch has hundreds fewer feathers this time of year. White-tailed deer shed their heavy gray winter coat for a lighter, reddish-brown summer pelage composed of thousands of fewer hairs. The change permits air to reach the skin and allow what little sweat the deer produces to quickly evaporate, cooling the animal.
Indigo bunting in birdbath
   Heat advisories remind us to limit strenuous physical activity to early and late in the day when it is cooler. Many animals that are usually active by day adopt the same strategy. Activity around feeders in August is usually greater soon after the sun is rising and when it is sinking in the west.
   Often, birds will stop calling and foraging as the temperature rises. They retire to thick shrubs and the dense canopy of trees. Try this: On a day when the forecast is hot and sunny, count the bird species you hear or see around your yard early in the day. Then see how many you see and hear at mid-afternoon. Typically at this time of year, I can tally 18 species during the cool morning and only eight in the afternoon heat.
   Frogs, toads, lizards and snakes are often difficult to find out and about on hot days. When it gets stifling hot, they find shelter beneath logs or deep within burrows where temperatures are much cooler.
   Youngsters and oldsters seek relief by going swimming. Some of our wildlife neighbors also make a bee-line to water. Bluebirds, catbirds, tufted titmice and others regularly bathe in my bird baths during hot weather.  On a hot day a few weeks ago, a couple in Forsyth was startled to see a red-shouldered hawk in their birdbath. The large bird stretched out its wings while immersing its chest and stomach in the water.
   While few folks like to sweat, sweating is an efficient way to dissipate body heat. Unfortunately, for all practical purposes, many animals from the family dog to birds sweat little if at all.
   Bats, however, have an interesting alternative. During hot weather, blood vessels in their ears and wing membranes dilate. This greatly increases blood flow through the vessels close to the skin, enhancing heat loss through the skin membranes. To help the process, bats sometimes stretch out their wings.
   Vultures, cormorants, anhingas and birds also often hold out their wings to lose heat.
   Birds cope in other ways, too. On a hot day, you might see a bird such as a brown thrasher with its mouth open. Very likely it is panting. As the air passes out of the mouth, heat is lost.
   Many wild animals drink more water. Deer obtain much of their water from their food. However, when it is hot and dry, the water content of these foods drops. In response, deer will sometimes drink a half to one-and-a-half quarts more per day than they would normally.
   Many people were not even born before the widespread use of air conditioning. Yet, wild animals have been finding ways to deal with the heat for thousands of years.
  And from the number of animals I see in my backyard, they are doing a good job of it.

Read more, from mud-loving armadillos to mourning dove drinking rates, in Terry's full column.
Terry Johnson is a former Nongame program manager with Wildlife Resources and executive director of TERN, the Nongame Conservation Section’s friends group.

Parting shot

Pygmy sperm whale stranded on Tybee beach

A pygmy sperm whale
found stranded alive at Tybee Island Aug. 21 drew attention from the public and media. After bottlenose dolphins, pygmy sperm whales are the most common marine mammal that strands on Georgia's coast, DNR wildlife biologist Clay George said. Little is known about these whales in the wild. They are solitary, deep-diving mammals endemic to offshore waters in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The Tybee whale was euthanized, the only humane option considering that it appeared sick -- an assessment confirmed by blood tests -- and because no pygmy sperm whale has ever been successfully rehabilitated. By studying whales like this one, biologists hope to learn the cause of pygmy whale strandings, including why many of the creatures show signs of cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. Savannah State University, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Tybee Island Public Works and NOAA Fisheries helped in this incident, said George, who coordinates the Georgia Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

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