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Wild facts
Technically called ladybird beetles, ladybugs sneak inside houses through cracks to escape cold weather.  Older, light-colored houses that face south or west are especially attractive to ladybugs. When handled, these insects may ooze a smelly, yellow liquid that stains, and is actually some of their blood. Use a wet/dry vacuum to capture and release these beneficial aphid-eaters outside with less mess. Because ladybugs also exude pheromones – a scent that attracts other ladybugs – seal up cracks in your house or you’ll have more beetles inside! Erecting a ladybug hibernating box in your yard may help, too.
-- Linda May
Nongame Conservation Section
environmental outreach coordinator

Whooping crane

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership has produced a 45-second video that stresses how unique whoopers are and warns about the threat of shootings that left five cranes dead in Georgia and Alabama last winter. Former DNR Nongame Conservation Section Program Manager Terry W. Johnson narrated the video. Captive Sound Studios in Atlanta produced the voice track. Both Johnson and Captive Sound provided their services free. The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership hopes media and other sites use the public service announcement, raising awareness of whooping cranes, furthering protection of the endangered birds and even helping the investigations into the shootings. Three whooping cranes were found dead in southwestern Georgia in December 2010, and two more at Lake Weiss in January ("Fifth whooper found dead," February 2011). View the video or download it.

D.C. talk
State Wildlife Grants held at 2011 levels in the fiscal 2012 budget deal Congress recently approved. House Resolution 3671 the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012allocates $61.4 million for State Wildlife Grants. In this time of belt-tightening, and with the program having already undergone cuts, the support is considered encouraging. The State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program provides comprehensive funding for conserving the 90 percent of U.S. wildlife species not hunted, fished or on the Endangered Species List. The legislation covers the remainder of fiscal 2012, which began Oct. 1. Stay tuned for details on other wildlife programs.

North Atlantic right whales
Rare species
North Atlantic right whale
Eubalaena glacialis Müeller
The only known calving grounds for North Atlantic right whales, the rarest of all large whale species, is off the coast of Georgia and northeastern Florida. Each winter, calving females and some non-breeding whales migrate south from foraging grounds of New England and Canada. More than 150 individual right whales, including 21 calves, were seen off the southeastern U.S. last winter. While the population is increasing at an annual rate of 2 percent, there are fewer than 100 breeding females, and possibly no more than 400 North Atlantic right whales in all. (Season's first whales spotted!)

Read more about right whales in DNR's rare species profiles.

Wildlife Q&A
Got questions a DNR biologist can answer? Email us. Here's a question from a recent visitor to www.georgiawildlife.org

Ornate chorus frog and American toad:
Is there a red frog in Georgia?
   Wildlife biologist John Jensen answers ... The two frog species native to Georgia that come closest to being called red are actually a brick-red or brownish-red, not bright red like some tropical species. The native species are the American toad (right) and ornate chorus frog (left). The color of both is highly variable, with some individuals lacking any reddish coloration. Cricket frogs may have a reddish stripe down the back, but otherwise they would not be considered red.

In education
There is something fishy about this contest! DNR and Wildlife Forever have teamed up to offer the national State-Fish Art Contest through the Go Fish Education Center. The contest is open to students grades K-12. Registration has opened. Deadline for entries is March 31. More details.

Did you see?
USFWS video on Spring Creek project
   The Coast Guard spotted two North Atlantic right whales four miles south of the Tybee sea buoy Dec. 7, the first right whales documented off Georgia this calving season. A NOAA acoustic buoy off Savannah recorded whale vocalizations the day before.
   Striped newt larvae collected last spring from Fall Line Sandhills Wildlife Management Area ("Fall Line powers frog, newt projects," May 2011) are thriving at Memphis Zoo. The larvae will be used to repatriate striped newt populations at Florida's Apalachicola National Forest, focus of a five-year study by the Coastal Plains Institute and the U.S. Forest Service.
   A five-year review of sea turtle mortality on the Georgia coast notes that strandings have declined over the last 30 years from about 800 turtles a year to 150. The report by Nongame Conservation Section staff notes that fishery mortality, boat collisions and disease are the leading causes of sea turtle fatalities in Georgia.
   The Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Network will hold its inaugural meeting Feb. 1-4 at Jekyll Island. The new group is focused on sharing research findings and sea turtle conservation activities in  the southeastern U.S., from Virginia to Texas.
    In a first for "snot otters," the Saint Louis Zoo has bred hellbenders in captivity. The zoo and the Missouri Department of Conservation announced the hatching this fall of 63 Ozark hellbenders, one of two North American subspecies and the latest salamander added to the federal endangered species list. (Also see "Hunting for hellbenders," September 2011.)
   Southeastern Technical College students in the Swainsboro school's Forest Technology program recently helped restore a mountain bog near Clayton. Read about this cross-state educational experience.
   A grant from Southern Co. and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will fund two DNR wildlife biologists to help landowners establish and manage longleaf pine forests and native groundcover. Other grants will promote high-priority bird species through use of State Botanical Garden of Georgia sites and leveraging The Nature Conservancy's partnership with the Army to protect, restore and manage 30,000 acres of longleaf pine in the Fort Benning area.
   Need a New Year's resolution? Commit to paddling 12 rivers next year. The
Georgia River Network says the Georgia Water Trails website can help.
   DNR State Parks & Historic Sites landed two projects on the "100 most promising projects" list in President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Report. Panola Mountain State Park's trail system and the Get Outdoors Georgia/Tons of Fun Fitness Challenge were cited as efforts that "protect special places and increase access to outdoor spaces."
   Deadline to apply for the popular Conservation Stewardship Program during the first ranking period of 2012 is Jan. 13. Landowners can use an online checklist to see if the federal program fits their property.
   In the news: Dr. Ernest "Ernie" Provost, noted conservationist and longtime wildlife professor at UGA, died at age 90 on Nov. 25. Jud Turner, who has advised Govs. Nathan Deal and Sonny Perdue on tri-state river basins, will succeed Allen Barnes as state Environmental Protection Division director. Ranger 1st Class Tim Butler, who serves in Pulaski and Bleckley counties, is the DNR 2011 State Ranger of the Year. Ranger 1st Class Tim Hutto of Southeast Georgia was the runner-up, receiving the James R. Darnell Award. DNR's Jeremy Wixson is the new director of the Go Fish Education Center in Perry. As the State Botanical Garden of Georgia's first conservation horticulturist, Heather Alley will direct production of rare plants for conservation and native ones for restoration, education and use in green industry.
   Read all about it: Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy, in Tallahassee, Fla., has a new e-newsletter. Also, the final Year of the Turtle monthly newsletter and calendar are out.
   Clarification: Georgia was the 41st state to start a state natural heritage program ("Heritage turns 25," November 2011).

   "Harris Neck gets hearing in Congress," Savannah Morning News
   "Ga. turtles get some love; state seeks to regulate harvest," Atlanta Business Chronicle
   "Spring Creek will get water to save mussels," WALB-TV (Albany)
   "World's smallest frogs discovered in New Guinea," ZooKeys
   "Watch network preparing for right whale winter migration," The Daytona Beach News-Journal
   "Wild Georgia: Nature brings joy even in darkest month," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
   "Wild burros wreak havoc on Texas ecology," USA Today
   "Right whales seen on our coast again," Savannah Morning News
   "DNR effort tracking rare species/habitats turns 25," Coosa Valley News
   "Stinky frogs are a treasure trove of antibiotic substances," ScienceDaily
   "‘Cops and Critters’ bring wild time to Compass Plaza," The Inkwell (Armstrong Atlantic State University)
   "SFI grant supports manual to assist American chestnut restoration," The Street
   "Thurmond Lake hydrilla infestation expanding," The Augusta Chronicle
   "Southeastern Tech forestry program volunteers at Chattahoochee National Forest," The (Swainsboro) Forest-Blade
   "Invite wildlife to your winter garden," AthensPatch
   "Ladder helps fish," Georgia Public Broadcasting

* Masthead: Spiny softshell turtle. John Jensen/Ga. DNR
* Pond slider. John Jensen/Ga. DNR
* Ladybug. www.PDPhoto.org
* Whooping crane. Steve Hillebrand/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
* Right whale mother and a large calf. Photo by Wildlife Trust, NOAA Permit #594-1759
* Ornate chorus frog and American toad. Photos by John Jensen/Ga. DNR
* Canby's dropwort.
* Myrtle holly in an Oxypolis canbyi cypress savanna. Lisa Kruse/Ga. DNR
* Sandy Abbott of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service talks about the Spring Creek project. USFWS
* Jenny Cruse-Sanders of Atlanta Botanical Garden works with Oxypolis canbyi at a Dooly County site near Oakbin Pond.
* Rufous hummingbird. Terry W. Johnson

Georgia Wild is free, monthly and focused on rare, endangered and other nongame wildlife. Nongame includes wildlife not legally trapped, fished for or hunted, plus native plants and natural habitats.

Volume 4, issue 12
Georgia Wild archives

In this issue:

New rules aimed
at conserving turtles

Public hearing next month near Macon

   The quest to protect Georgia's freshwater turtles from an international appetite that has decimated turtle populations in Southeast Asia leads here:
   A Jan. 5 public hearing at Georgia Forestry Commission headquarters in Dry Branch, then possibly a vote by the Board of Natural Resources Jan. 25 in Atlanta.
pond slider   Crafted over 14 months with input from turtle farmers, trappers, researchers and others, the rules proposed by DNR's Wildlife Resources Division will, if approved, set permit requirements, harvest limits and turtle farm specifications. The goal is regulating commercial trade to maintain healthy turtle populations in one of the nation’s leading states for turtle diversity.
   A person will not need a permit to harvest or keep as pets up to 10 native freshwater turtles (excluding state or federally protected species). State-licensed pet dealers will be exempt from the 10-turtle limit. The status of turtles protected under state or federal endangered wildlife laws will not be affected.
   Trade for turtles as food, pets and a source of folk medicines, demand driven largely by China and other Southeast Asian countries, has spiked concern about harvesting wild turtles in the U.S. The lack of regulations makes it impossible to monitor commercial harvest in Georgia, officials say.
   Senior wildlife biologist John Jensen of DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section said Georgia has seen how over-harvest can undermine a turtle population. During the 1970s and ’80s, the turtle soup industry homed in on adult alligator snapping turtles. One trapper reported averaging 1,000 pounds a day in the Flint River drainage. Over the next 20 years, the number of adult alligator snappers in the Flint plummeted by more than 80 percent. The species is now protected, due to its low numbers.
   Turtles are particularly vulnerable because they are easily caught and slow to reach sexual maturity, diminishing their ability to recover. Nongame Conservation Section Chief Mike Harris said the regulations “provide a framework to monitor harvest,” compared to the current situation, which is “totally wide open.”
   Jensen sees a lesson worth heeding in China, where turtle populations have been depleted and some species driven into extinction.
   “Those turtles don’t have a different life history than ours,” he said.

(Editor's note: For those unable to attend the Jan. 5 public hearing, written comments will be accepted until Jan. 12. Details.)

Georgia turtles by the numbers
  • 27: Species in the state
  • 19: Species of freshwater turtles
  • 6: Protected species of freshwater turtles
  • 27-3-19.1: State code section (O.C.G.A) authorizing the Board of Natural Resources to regulate the export, sale and farming of freshwater turtles.

You choose ...
2011's top wildlife read

    Which Georgia Wild article most captivated your attention in 2011? Give us your take on the top stories below. Rate each from least interesting, or lowest (1 is a dud), to most interesting, or highest (10 is a winner). You can also click on a story to re-read it.
   We'll publish the results next month.
   One vote per story, please. You must be a subscriber to vote. Also, the survey works only in the email, not on the Internet version of this issue.
   And if you'd like to suggest a story that is not listed, just email us!
"Dolphin rescued (and videoed)"
"Hunting for hellbenders"
"Island bats, long nights mark survey start"
"Miracle of Moody Forest"
"Raccoon Creek partnership scores success"
"Insect predators on the wing"
"Rockcress makes comeback at Black’s Bluff"
"Shorebird with Georgia ties weathers Irene"
"Survey maps way to monitor indigos"

Wetlands work
Restoration in Dooly
pegs rare plant, habitat

Canby's dropwort

   There's little mystery why Canby’s dropwort is endangered: It needs habitat that is juuust right. Which is why botanists call it a Goldilocks plant, DNR’s Lisa Kruse said with a smile.
   “It lives on the shallow edges of wetlands that receive a certain amount of flooding, but also have a specific dry-down period,” Kruse explained. “It likes its feet wet sometimes, but other times needs them to be dry … we think for seed germination.”
   The persnickety nature of Oxypolis canbyi makes a Dooly County project centered on this slender plant and the wetlands it inhabits even more valuable.
   The focus of the work, funded through a 2011 Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program grant, is a small watershed near Unadilla that includes Oakbin Pond. This wetland has a pond-cypress savanna and what was once the state’s most vibrant population of Canby’s dropwort. Yet, ditches from surrounding farmland increased runoff into Oakbin, changing the site’s hydrology and sending the imperiled plant into a tailspin.
   The bulk of the federal grant will be used to acquire some 500 acres in permanent conservation easements from willing landowners. Remaining funds, combined with matching support from project partners, will be used to restore Oakbin Pond’s hydrology and monitor Oxypolis canbyi.
   The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resource Conservation Service administers the grant. Another partner, The Nature Conservancy, owns 176 acres of Oakbin, preserving most of the centerpiece habitat.
   The potential for this three-year project is promising.
The National Resources Conservation Service, with help from the Georgia Land Conservation Program, has enrolled six landowners and 503 acres. DNR and The Nature Conservancy are monitoring Canby’s dropwort.
   Next up: Develop engineering plans to restore the hydrology; survey and close easements; and conduct prescribed burns to control competing vegetation and fulfill the role of natural fires that used to creep into the cypress savannas.
   “At no other Canby’s dropwort population has there been this combination of local landowner involvement, hydrologic restoration and prescribed fire,” Kruse said. “Therefore, this project is one of our best conservation options for the species. We will learn a great deal; it’s exciting!”
    Long-term monitoring is essential and will involve help from another partner, the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance.
   More area landowners are also being enlisted through the 2012 Myrtle hollyWetlands Reserve Program general signup (which is not part of the original grant). Kristina Sorensen, who administered the grant when she worked with DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section and the Georgia Land Conservation Program, said the project helped forge relationships with owners of nearby tracts that have cypress savanna and Canby’s dropwort. Coastal Plain cypress savannas are threatened, rating as a priority habitat in Georgia’s Wildlife Action Plan, a comprehensive strategy for conserving wildlife statewide.
   Easement specialist Sharon Holbrooks, project point person for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, summed up the work:
   “Helping to preserve habitat for a federally endangered species, as well as restore natural hydrology to an agricultural landscape … it’s a win-win, for the plants and the citizens of Dooly County.”

Surveying site
Canby's dropwort
At a glance: Perennial herb with slender stems and quill-like leaves. Produces a white head of flowers, similar to Queen Anne’s lace. Parts of the plant smell faintly of dill. Herb is part of the carrot family. Species profile.
Found in: Wetlands, such as cypress ponds and wet savannas, with acidic soils, fluctuating water levels and little to no tree canopy.
In Georgia: 22 known occurrences. Some were found by helicopter, when the plants were flowering in open savannas. Surveys since 2006 have confirmed Oxypolis canbyi in 12 of the sites.
Range: Found mostly in the Coastal Plain in Georgia and South Carolina, but also in North Carolina and Maryland.
Status: State- and federally listed as endangered.
Granted: The Georgia project, which depends on public-private cooperation to conserve an imperiled plant, was one of only five such grants awarded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service in 2011.

Out my backdoor
A holiday hummingbird

By Terry W. Johnson
    We associate a number of birds with Christmas. For some such as the robin, dove and goldfinch it’s because legend tells us they were present at the birth of Christ. For others, including ducks, blue jays, chickadees and the all-time favorite, the cardinal, it’s because they are commonly shown on Christmas cards.
   However, I would like to nominate another bird for this growing flock: the rufous hummingbird.
   Before you think I have consumed too much eggnog and lost my senses, let me explain why.
Rufous hummingbird   While everyone is familiar with the ruby-throated hummingbird – it patrols our backyards through spring and summer, and is the only hummingbird known to nest east of the Mississippi River – the vast majority of these tiny dynamos leave Georgia by the end of October. Also, the ruby-throat is only one of 12 hummingbird species reported in the state.
   If you are lucky enough to spot a hummingbird at your feeder from November through February, it is probably a rufous. By far, the rufous is the most commonly seen hummingbird in Georgia during winter; 75-100 are reported during some years.
   Such was not always the case. The first confirmed record of a rufous in Georgia was Aug. 6, 1978, in Athens. When DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section began its Hummingbird Helper Program in 1989, typically no more than half-a-dozen rufous hummingbirds were reported annually.
   However, rufous hummingbirds may have been wintering in Georgia much longer than we realized.
   The saga of the Christmas hummingbird has its roots in the rich farmland of southwest Georgia near the small community of Bluffton. There, Ikey Gregory, a retired teacher and hummingbird enthusiast, and her husband Flinn have probably seen more wintering hummingbirds in their Early County yard than anybody else in the state.
   Ikey’s love for hummingbirds led her to give many talks to garden and women’s clubs. From those talks, Ikey said that at various times over the years, three ladies told her they saw winter hummingbirds in the early 1900s. The women, all then in their upper 80s or 90s, grew up on farms in Bleckley and Early counties.
   Each said they remembered as young girls helping their fathers and brothers pick the last of the cotton and peanuts in winter. At such times, they always looked for brown hummingbirds that lived in the fencerows bordering the fields.
   Since the hummers were most often seen around Christmas, they called them Christmas hummingbirds.
   The rufous displays more rusty brown plumage than any other hummingbird, and more than likely the birds were rufous hummingbirds.
   The fencerows where the girls spotted these hummingbirds have long been recognized as havens for quail, rabbits, songbirds and other wildlife. Most farmers of that era considered these areas not wastelands, but places that yielded valuable game for the table.
   Sometime in the past, it was decided that the need to produce more cotton, peanuts and other crops outweighed the wildlife benefits of brushy fencerows. Today much of this productive wildlife habitat has been cleared to make way for larger tractors and implements and pivot irrigation.
   Most animals that depended on brushy fencerows have dwindled in number. Yet, the rufous hummingbirds that may have wintered there for generations may have been more fortunate. Today, feeders hung in backyards in small towns like Bluffton and big cities like Atlanta provide these hardy Western birds with a supplement to their diet of sap, insects and nectar from winter-blooming flowers.
   As a biologist, I realize that since nobody seems to have documented these tiny brown birds in Georgia decades ago, it is impossible to positively say that what these ladies saw were rufous hummingbirds. However, I can’t help but believe they were.
   If you would like to see a Christmas hummingbird this holiday season, hang a feeder half-full of nectar in your backyard. When you look outside after the presents have been opened on Christmas morning, you may spot another gift – your very own Christmas hummingbird.

See the list of hummingbird species seen in Georgia in Terry’s full column, posted here!

Terry Johnson is a former Nongame program manager with Wildlife Resources and executive director of TERN, the Nongame Conservation Section’s friends group. (Want to reprint Terry’s column? Email rick.lavender@dnr.state.ga.us.)
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