Give to wildlife? Check
The Georgia Wildlife
Conservation Fund tax checkoff
is vital to nongame wildlife projects in this state. The checkoff accounted for about 10 percent of the DNR Nongame Conservation Section's funding in 2010. Yet while averaging more than $300,000 since 1989, checkoff contributions barely cleared $200,000 last year and have declined annually since 2005. Help stem that trend, and help Georgia wildlife. Fill in an amount more than $1 on line 26 of the long state income tax form (Form 500) or line 10 of the short form (Form 500-EZ). Forms online
. And remember that the Nongame Conservation Section
receives no state funding to conserve nongame wildlife, native plants and natural habitats. We depend on contributions, grants and fundraisers, like the income tax checkoff.
Here are other ways to help:
* Buy a conservation license plate
directly to the Nongame Conservation Section.
* 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.
Listen for the high-pitched
mating calls of the spring peeper
this time of year. A distant chorus of these tiny frogs sounds like bells jingling. In the South, this amphibian “peeps
” from November through late winter. However, in northern states the calling and breeding starts when the first warm rain arrives, signaling that spring is near. Although spring peepers may be piercingly loud, finding them in clumps of aquatic vegetation is difficult. Their color varies and may be a shade of yellow, orange, brown, gray or olive. This species is best identified by its 1½-inch-long size and a characteristic dark “X” on its back.
Two "year of" themes
offer teachers rich resources for wildlife lessons. The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2011 the International Year of Forests
to raise awareness of forests -- their conservation and sustainable management. 2011 is also the Year of the Turtle, an effort by Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation to highlight the precarious state of turtles -- nearly 50 percent of which are identified as threatened with extinction. Sign up for a free e-newsletter, learn more about the global status of turtles, even submit a turtle photograph for a contest at
. (FYI: The focus on turtles intensified with the Turtle Survival Alliance's release of its 2011 "Turtles in Trouble
for State Wildlife Grants Program funding continues. In a bid to lop millions from the federal budget, the U.S. House passed House Resolution 1 on Feb. 19. This continuing resolution, which would extend the budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, eliminates 2011 funding
for State Wildlife Grants. The proposal also nixes funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act
and significantly cuts the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund
Since 2000, the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program
has served as states' main funding source to help keep common species common and protect others before they become imperiled and more costly to recover. The grants power State Wildlife Action Plans
, strategies for conserving biodiversity.
Work in Georgia
varies from documenting key coastal shorebird nesting sites to restoring mountain bogs and protecting natural habitats such as at Townsend and Chickasawhatchee wildlife management areas. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act supports wetlands conservation projects. The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund provides grants to states for work involving candidate, proposed and listed species.
State Wildlife Grants supporters say they are not opposed to cuts, but "zeroing out" a program is disproportionate. With the majority Democratic Senate opposed to HR 1, leaders in both houses are working on a shorter-term continuing resolution. The current spending plan runs out March 5, raising the specter of a government shutdown.
Read the opinion of Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall.
: Small wading bird – about 11 inches long – with long neck and bill. Adults are black or dark brown on the crown and back, buff on the neck and sides, and striped orange and white on the chest and front of the neck.
Way under the radar
: Least bitterns
are secretive and well camouflaged for their wetlands home. If alarmed, they may freeze with bill pointed up, blending with surrounding marsh vegetation and sometimes even swaying in synch with nearby plants if there’s a breeze.
: Migratory in Georgia, with most leaving in August or September. Some over-winter here. Lives year-round in south Florida, the Caribbean and parts of Texas, California, Arizona, Mexico and Central America. Breeds across the eastern half of the U.S. and portions of the West.
: Favors freshwater or brackish marshes with tall vegetation.
: Nests in spring in Georgia, mostly along the coast yet as far north as the Ridge and Valley ecoregion
. Males do most of the nest-making, usually in dense vegetation or small trees or shrubs. Most nests are platforms of woven grass, reeds and sticks over water. Tall marsh plants are pulled over and crimped into place. Clutches range
from two to seven pale blue or green eggs. Young fledge two to three weeks after hatching.
: Small fish, frogs, tadpoles, crayfish, snakes, insects, other animals and even plants. Least bitterns often straddle vegetation over water and nab prey below, accessing water too deep for wading herons. Sometimes they hunt from platforms built over productive sites.
: Song described as a soft coo-coo-coo
: Least bitterns can squeeze through thin places. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology account, John James Audubon wrote that a young captive bird walked easily between two books standing 1.5 inches apart. The bird’s body measured 2.25 inches wide.
: Not well documented, considering furtive nature. One assessment considered least bitterns uncommon along Georgia’s coast and local in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont
. The least bittern is a Georgia Wildlife Action Plan
priority species. Globally, the species’ IUCN conservation status is one of “least concern.”
: Threats include wetland draining and filling. Siltation that alters wetlands is an issue, as is residential stormwater and agricultural runoff, which can carry pesticides and herbicides affecting the birds, their habitat and insect food sources.
How you can help
: Support conservation efforts that reduce wetland loss and control runoff and siltation near wetlands.
Largely from an account by Georgann Schmalz in “The Breeding Bird Atlas of Georgia” (University of Georgia Press).
: Following up on a report about an Echols County man keeping migratory songbirds as pets, Sgt. Patrick Dupree and Cpl. Damon Winters found a make-shift cage containing several species of wild birds at the Statenville home. The cage included about eight cardinals, four mourning doves and more than a dozen warblers and sparrows. The officers also found a trap used to catch the birds. The man was informed about wildlife laws
regarding birds and issued a warning for unlawful possession. The birds were released unharmed into the wild.
Unicoi State Park & Lodge
is calling all birders to the Georgia Mountain BirdFest April 28-May 1 at the park near Helen. The event – north Georgia’s only major birding festival – is full of field trips, stocked with speakers (including many from DNR) and packed with programs, from high-elevation birds to binoculars 101. Details: www.gamtnbirdfest.com
or (800) 573-9659, ext. 305.
Sharks may have
finished off a North Atlantic right whale off Florida’s coast, but the 2-year-old female was already injured and weak from months of entanglement in fishing gear
. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric team including DNR biologists had cut away more than 200 feet of rope in December and January – even temporarily sedating the whale – but the carcass recovered early this month had rope embedded in its mouth that possibly affected the whale's ability to feed.
DNR's Game Management
Section is well on the way to reaching its annual prescribed fire goals. Staff have done controlled burns on more than 15,000 acres statewide, about half the acreage Game Management burns each year
to manage wildlife habitat.
Atlanta Audubon Society
will help you prepare for DNR’s Youth Birding Competition with a March 5 workshop at Panola Mountain State Park
in Stockbridge. Youth and adult leaders are welcomed as instructors Eddie Hatchett and Nikki Belmonte discuss equipment, birding skills and ethics, and route strategies from 9-11 a.m. at Panola’s nature center. Details: AtlantaAudubonEd@gmail.com
or (678) 973-2437.
Sign up or submit soon
for the Youth Birding Competition
(deadline: March 31), the competition’s T-shirt Art Contest
(enter by March 1) and the Give Wildlife a Chance Poster Contest
Add North Carolina
to the lineup of states documenting white-nose syndrome
, the malady that has killed hundreds of thousands of bats in the East. A N.C. Wildlife Commission biologist called the recent discovery of white-nose at two caves “the arrival of one of the most devastating threats to bat conservation in our time.”
Can you put a price
on the environmental benefits of Georgia’s 22 million acres of private timberlands? The University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources did with a three-year study
that factored in everything from wildlife habitat to aesthetics for a whopping estimate of $37.6 billion.
Two barn owls abandoned
their eggs and nest in the Habersham County high school under construction near Mt. Airy. Crews steered clear of the owls, and project superintendent Lee Chitwood of Charles Black Construction said workers “allowed them every convenience of access to the nest, but to no avail.” (“Night raiders nest in new Habersham High,” October 2010
Re-establishing lake sturgeon
in the Coosa River system earned DNR the 2010 Outstanding Sport Fish Restoration Access Award
from the American Fisheries Society. Georgia is one of four states recently recognized by the society for efforts to provide the public with quality fishing opportunities and aquatic education programs.
The State Capitol turned
wilder Feb. 8 as the 10th annual Sportsmen’s Day at the Capitol and a new Coastal Conservation Day were held under the Gold Dome. Events included an appearance by the world champion National Archery in the Schools Program team
from Chatsworth’s Woodlawn Elementary, the kickoff of DNR’s Centennial Celebration
and a shrimp and grits lunch.
River cane restoration
at Panola Mountain State Park received a hand from Friends of Panola
, REI Atlanta
and Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta
in late January. Volunteers from the three helped plant 1,000 cane plugs in the South River corridor, part of a larger effort involving more groups .
A boater repeatedly cited
for violating Florida’s manatee speed protection zones faces a year of federal probation and a required $600 contribution to a wildlife conservation organization. Although a conviction for killing a manatee is a rarity, Joseph Miata Jr. also had to forfeit his boat after pleading guilty to slamming into a West Indian manatee
as he sped through a protection zone.
The winter issue
of Georgia Sound, the Coastal Resources Division
newsletter, profiles the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership
, new Brantley County ordinances that will help protect the Satilla River and even an update of the agency’s popular barrier islands poster. Download a copy
The America’s Great Outdoors
Report released by President Obama
promotes items such as getting children outside and strengthening the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Nongame in the news
: "Top 25 most endangered turtles named
," species leading report is represented by Lonesome George, world's only known Abdington Island giant tortoise. (Feb. 22)
: "Fires blaze trail for growth at state park
," prescribed fire at Panola Mountain aimed at helping restore ground cover and native grasslands. (Feb. 21)
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
: "Cut federal waste but leave the good alone
," column by Ducks Unlimited CEO H. Dale Hall opposes disproportionate cuts to federal conservation funding in House-approved budget resolution. (Feb. 21)
: "Second whooping crane found dead at Weiss Lake; reward now at $23,250
," feds suspect both were shot. (February)
The Augusta Chronicle
: "Undergrowth to be burned at Mistletoe park
," announcement of prescribed fire planned at state park. (Feb. 16)
The Florida Times-Union
: "Swamp water levels raise wildfire concern
," winter water level at Okefenokee is lower than when 2007 wildfires scorched 500,000 acres in the region. (Feb. 15)
(Atlanta): "Specialty tag changes upset some groups
," Georgia Wildlife
Federation calls for changes in law to lower wildlife plate fees or return more to conservation efforts. (Feb. 14).
Field and Stream
(blog): "Lead ammo banned for pest bird hunting
," Fish and Wildlife Service rule outlaws lead for species shot under federal depredation permits. (Feb. 11)
University of Georgia
: "Warnell study finds Georgia forests provide $37 billion in ecological benefits to state
," study funded by Georgia Forestry Foundation prices conservation value of 22 million acres of private forestland. (Feb. 9)
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
(and others via AP): "Dig finds lightkeeper's house on Sapelo
," Weekend for Wildlife trip led by state archaeologist David Crass unearths 19th-century remains. (Feb. 9)
: "Pursue better alternatives before building new water reservoirs
," column by USFWS Georgia field supervisor Sandy Tucker urges options less costly in natural resources, money. (Feb. 7)
: "Death of young right whale highlights that prevention of entanglements is key
," whale had been partially disentangled but part of rope left was imbedded in mouth. (Feb. 4) Also:
The Daytona Beach News-Journal
(and others via AP): "Gardeners can help safeguard imperiled plants
," column on helping preserve plants includes advice from DNR botanist Mincy Moffett. (Feb. 2)
: "Georgia's Youth Birding Competition sign up now
," DNR release promotes registration for 2011 birding and art contests. (Feb. 1)
: "Poster contest's 21st year celebrates wildlife diversity
," annual Give Wildlife a Chance competition announced. (Jan. 31)
: "Keeping the Flint River safe
," profile of the Flint Riverkeeper. (Jan. 30)
: "Reward for whooping crane killers now up to $20,800
," DNR announces support by Board of Natural Resources, TERN and others in case of three whoopers shot in south Georgia. (Jan. 27)
The New York Times
: "From whales to apes, small conservation steps
," column sees disentanglement of right whale and discovery of a live tiger cub in Bangkok airport luggage as "small victories." (Jan. 18)
The Moultrie Observer
: "DNR offers reward after cranes shot
," reward grows as news spreads of three whooping cranes found dead in Calhoun County. (Jan. 14)
: "Georgia 2011 Youth Birding Competition
" promoted with DNR release. (January)
Coosa Valley News
: "Gov. Deal honors Forestry for Wildlife Partners
," DNR release announcing 2010 program partners Plum Creek and Georgia Power. (Feb. 11)
: "Rare fish found in Georgia river
," highlights discovery of federally endangered amber darter and state-endangered freckled darters in Coosawattee River. (Winter 2011)
: Youth Birding Competition workshop
for participants, mentors, 9-11 a.m., Panola Mountain State Park nature center, Stockbridge.
: Youth Birding Competition
, statewide but event ends 5 p.m. April 17 at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, Mansfield.
: Paddle Georgia 2011
Photo credits (from top)
* In masthead: Prescribed fire this February at Crooked River State Park. Kelly Jarvis/Student Conservation Association
Flowering spikes of Xyris tennesseensis
/Tennessee yellow-eyed grass. Mincy Moffett/Ga. DNR
* Spring peeper. John Jensen/Ga. DNR
* Josh Smith of the Consasauga River Alliance pumping silt from Colvard Spring. Brett Albanese/Ga. DNR
* Sandhill cranes in flight, with mud on beaks and feet. Tom Wilson
* Least bittern. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
* Flock of sandhill cranes. Todd Schneider/Ga. DNR
* Cardinal freed from cage. Ga. DNR
* Moody Forest longleaf pines in smoke from a prescribed fire. Lisa Kruse/Ga. DNR
* Hilary Smith after a day of thinning trees at Townsend WMA. Kelly Jarvis/Student Conservation Association
Prescribed fire strike team members Lily Walter, left, and Carly Monahan watch fire effects during a burn at Moody Forest. Hilary Smith/Student Conservation Association
* Sapelo manager Fred Hay and DNR Commissioner Mark Williams. Diane Kirkland
volume 4, issue 2
A free monthly e-newsletter produced by DNR and focused on nongame. Subscribe or see previous issues
Wildlife not legally trapped, fished for or hunted, plus native plants and natural habitats.
The Wildlife Resources Division's Nongame Conservation Section
. Our mission: Conserve and protect 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
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