(Editor's note: Upgrades at www.georgiawildlife.com may temporarily disrupt some hyperlinks in this issue.)
When cranes call
If you hear a chorus of trumpeting rattles high overhead in March, try to find a flock of migrating sandhill cranes
nearby. Although the migration peak has passed, you may see still see some of these long-necked, long-legged, gray birds heading toward breeding grounds in the northern U.S. and Canada. Despite their large size and loud calls, spotting sandhill cranes in flight can be difficult. They typically migrate thousands of feet high, riding thermals to gain altitude. But their prehistoric sounds
can be heard from a mile away. According to fossil records, the sandhill crane is the oldest known bird species alive.
March is also prime time to spot federally endangered whooping cranes
flying north. The some 76 birds that comprise the eastern migratory population of North America's tallest bird (adults reach 5 feet) were scattered from Florida to Indiana as of late February, according to Operation Migration
. Please report any whoopers seen to Nongame Conservation Section program managers Jim Ozier in Forsyth, (478) 994-1438, or Brad Winn in Brunswick, (912) 262-3128. Specifics sought include date, time, habitat type, coordinates, leg bands or other markings, number of birds and other information. To keep reintroduced whoopers wild, the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership
urges people to stay at least 600 feet away from the cranes, be still and speak softly.
Boosting watchable wildlife
A new nature trail
at Hugh M. Gillis Public Fishing Area
in Laurens County and a well-rooted native plants program
at the State Botanical Garden
in Athens are two examples of educational and watchable wildlife projects partially funded by state nongame wildlife money. Programs include competitive grants awarded yearly to local governments and conservation groups. (The call for proposals goes out in March; updates posted at www.georgiawildlife.com
). The public also benefits from funds spent on wildlife viewing area improvements at state wildlife management and public fishing areas, and habitat and wildlife watching projects at state parks.
CRP aids pine savannas
As a farm bil rewrite
winds through Congress, a new conservation practice that is part of the Conservation Reserve Program
(CRP) in that legislation will manage 4,800 acres of Georgia pinelands for wildlife habitat. State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement
(SAFE) targets habitat for high-priority species. Georgia will promote native pine savannas by taking planted longleaf pine tracts where CRP contracts soon expire and implementing new 10- to 15-year agreements that promote thinning, burning and native ground cover. Northern bobwhite quail, Bachman's sparrow and at least 18 other top-priority creatures stand to gain. The same is true for more than 50 plants listed in the State Wildlife Action Plan
, a conservation blueprint. The USDA has announced SAFE projects
for up to 420,100 acres nationwide.
: Only member of the genus Cryptobranchus
. Close cousins to giant salamanders in Japan and China. The eastern hellbender found in Georgia is the state's largest amphibian and one of North America's biggest. The longest on record topped 2.5 feet (www.hellbenders.org
: State-listed in Georgia as threatened. Dramatic decline seen in U.S. populations.
: Streams from Appalachian Mountains to the Ozarks in Missouri and Arkansas. Hellbenders inhabit Tennessee River drainage waterways in extreme north Georgia (state survey overview
: Medium to large mountain streams with rocky bottoms and cold, clear water. Water quality is key. Hellbenders breathe mostly through their skin.
: Color varies from gray to orange; patterns from dots to blotches. Adult hellbenders have flat heads; thick bodies; slimy, wrinkled skin; and paddle-like tails.
: If hellbender isn't bad enough, try mud devil, grampus and snot otter.
: They have a face only a mother could love but hellbender larvae might favor dad more. Males aggressively guard the eggs after running off the females.
: Habitat degradation and overcollection. Some anglers kill them, thinking they have a venomous bite. Hellbenders are not venomous and seldom bite.
: One hellbender in captivity lived 29 years, which may speak to their No. 1 food: crayfish.
Source: "Amphibians and
Reptiles of Georgia"
: The incidental capture, injury and death of sea turtles by shrimp trawlers is a major threat to the five turtle species – all federally threatened or endangered – found along Georgia's coast. Conservation rangers will begin inspecting turtle excluder devices
(TEDs) at the dock and on the water in May. Sixteen of 23 trawlers checked early last May ran afoul of regulations. The most common violation: TED deflector bars not set at the angles needed to eject sea turtles from the trawl. Strong law enforcement has helped keep turtle stranding rates below average during the 2005-2007 commercial fishing seasons.
– Sgt. John Harwell
Nongame in the news
*WXIA-TV (11Alive): "In Georgia, the eagle has landed
," about January aerial surveys of bald eagle nests (Jan. 19)
*The Daily Citizen (Dalton): "Perdue announces Forestry for Wildlife partners
," about three companies honored in the DNR-led program (Feb. 1)
*Buckmasters.com: "Georgia DNR, Nature Conservancy team up for prescribed fire
," about a joint seasonal burn crew (February)
*Savannah Morning News: "Rare injured whales monitored off Ga. coast
," about two injured right whales in Georgia waters and an entangled whale off N.C. (Feb. 5)
*Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "A wild weekend: Dinner, coastal excursion raise conservation funds
," about Weekend for Wildlife fund-raiser and what the money is used for (Feb. 9)
*Macon Telegraph: "Drought harms rare Georgia wildlife but rebound expected
," about drought impacts on wildlife (Feb. 11)
* March 8
: Fire on the Mountain, Sprewell Bluff State Park, Thomaston. Noon start. Rain date: March 15. http://gastateparks.org
; Nongame Conservation Section, (478) 994-1438
* March 14-16
: Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia annual conference, Unicoi State Park, Helen. www.eealliance.org/
* March 15
: Fitzgerald Wild Chicken Festival, Fitzgerald. (800) 386-4642; www.wildchickenfestival.com
* April 4-6
: Georgia Botanical Society 2008 Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, Statesboro. Register by March 12. www.gabotsoc.org/
* April 11-13
: Pinewoods Bird Festival, Pebble Hill Plantation, Thomasville. www.pinewoodsbirdfestival.com
* May 10
: International Migratory Bird Day. www.birdday.org
Send items to email@example.com
Photo credits (from top):
* Bald eagle: Ga. DNR
* Jacob Thompson in the field. Ga. DNR
* Barred owl: Ga. DNR
* Hellbender: Dirk J. Stevenson
* Tracy Feltman holding Alabama shad: Ga. DNR
Mary Terry: Ga. DNR
* Prescribed fire in South Georgia: Ga. DNR
* Weekend for Wildlife: Ga. DNR
volume 1, issue 2
"Georgia Wild" is a bimonthly electronic newsletter produced by the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division and focused on conserving nongame species. The newsletter is delivered free to subscribers. Subscribe here
or go to www.georgiawildlife.com
. (Access archived issues here
The WRD Nongame Conservation Section conserves and protects Georgia's diversity of native animals and plants and their habitats through research, management and education. Staff conduct research and surveys, identify critical habitats, implement species and habitat restoration programs, promote awareness of wildlife conservation needs, provide guidance for managing private lands for the benefit of nongame animals (those not hunted, fished or trapped) and native habitats, help in acquiring conservation habitat, and develop management plans for state-owned natural areas.