Are We Ready for Success?

You can’t handle the truth! … Jack Nicholson to Tom Cruise, in the movie, “A Few Good Men.”


Every person taking the time to read this blog wants earnestly to do their part to help restore abundant bobwhites and grassland birds, and their habitats.  That dedication to the resource is not in question.  What I do wonder lately is whether bobwhite conservationists are really ready for success.

I get asked weekly if the NBCI is “successful,” if there is real hope for quail.  The Initiative is, after all, almost 10 years old.  I can credibly cite a long and profound list of improvements in the energy levels, activities, organization, infrastructure, policy improvements, vision, strategy, capacity and profile of bobwhite conservation (e.g., see the “NBCI Accomplishments and Milestones” fact sheet at ).  These are important and necessary steps that add real value to, and enable, full-speed implementation of the NBCI.

But what people really want to know is “has the NBCI succeeded anywhere in restoring sustainable, huntable populations of wild quail?”  That question is harder to answer – not because there isn’t lots more quail habitat restoration happening now than before.  Not because quail habitat restoration isn’t working.  But because we are afraid of ourselves.

Success breeds success.  An initial trickle of successes will stimulate more successes.  Eventually a growing stream of quail restoration success stories across the country can fuel a burgeoning movement.  People want to be part of and to invest in winning propositions.  Building this positive feedback loop is vital for the long-term viability, sustainability and growth of the NBCI; indeed, for simply keeping hope alive.





…or, go get that puppy and become a bird hunter now!

The old saying, “Timing is everything,” is one of those that seems wise because it can be used in just about every situation – good or bad. In short how would you argue against it?

“If old Dave hadn’t a left early, he wouldn’t be laid up in the hospital and could still hunt.” While across town, Jimbo laments, “Man, if we had only left a few minutes earlier we’d a missed all this wreck traffic and gotten to the game on time.”

 I try not to think about “what ifs”, and “if only I had ofs.” Lordy be, it is more a waste of time than waxing your truck before entering a mud bog rally. If you spend a lot time thinking about time, I’d say you have too much time on your hands.

I’d rather think of timing as in “there is no time like the present.” They say if you wait for the proper timing to have a kid, or buy a house, you’ll always be homeless and alone. I lost my best old friend and bird dog a few months ago. She never worried about the past or time. Now I am pondering when to buy a puppy. Notice I said when, not if. It is another timing question – and I don’t want to over think it.

I bought my last puppy about 7 years ago – 3 months before my daughter was born. Now what was I thinking? Truth is I wasn’t.


Bobwhite Synergy at the NBTC Annual Meeting

Quail coordinators workshop

The annual meeting of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) feels like slugging an energy drink … or two.  Even for the most determined optimists who are dedicated to restoring bobwhites and grassland birds against long odds, the daily uphill conservation slog can feel lonely at times.  A high-energy gathering of more than 100 hardcore, professional bobwhite conservationists is a sure-fire energizer.

The NBTC meeting in Tallahassee, Florida last week – graciously and efficiently hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Tall Timbers Research Station – attracted some 120 of the nation’s bobwhite leaders for four days of intense strategy deliberations, technical training and camaraderie.   In an era of the most restrictive agency travel budgets in memory, some 23 state wildlife agencies, five non-government organizations, and three federal conservation  agencies participated.

Make no mistake, this is no ordinary technical gathering that batters attendees with endless Powerpoint presentations.  Because the NBTC is the creator and the keeper of, as well as the brains and the fire behind, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), no other body is so invested in its ultimate success.  Thus, the NBTC meeting is built for the purpose of advancing implementation the NBCI.  This conference combined the biannual meeting of the NBTC Steering Committee, a half-day training workshop for state quail coordinators, two half days of key presentations, two half days of technical subcommittee breakout sessions, and a daylong field trip to examine prime quail habitats and management in the nearby Red Hills region.

A wide diversity of bobwhite professionals comprise the NBTC, including state quail program coordinators and district biologists; private, state and university quail researchers; non-government and state private lands biologists; state and non-government organization administrators; private, state and federal agriculture policy specialists; grazing management specialists; foresters; songbird experts; and joint venture coordinators.  The NBTC collates this rich array of expertise into a multi-tasking national team with a shared vision for restoring widespread huntable populations of this popular but severely declining game bird.

The NBTC always has prided itself on being a hard-charging group, with a hard-working annual meeting.  Its subcommittees are structured to address priority bobwhite challenges – agriculture policy, forestry, grazing lands, prescribed fire, public outreach and research.  The membership divides itself among the subcommittees based on expertise and interest, to develop priorities, tactics and an agenda of action items for the coming year.  The NBCI’s professional staff round out the NBTC machine by providing full-time capacity to facilitate implementation of those agendas.  The horsepower of the NBTC continues, year-by-year, to grow and pervade on behalf of the NBCI, even after the individual members return to the daily slog … but with a recharged determination.

Raising Our Game in Tallahassee

Building a bobwhite conservation movement is foremost about working with people. The nation’s premier forum for working with people to promote quail restoration occurs next week (August 9-12) in Tallahassee, Florida.  The 17th annual meeting of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC) is hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) and Tall Timbers Research Station (TTRS), organized by Chuck McKelvy, FWCC Small Game Program Coordinator.

The NBTC (formerly the Southeast Quail Study Group) originated as a technical committee of the southeastern state wildlife agencies; it now has grown to be the unified range-wide bobwhite technical group.  The NBTC is the creator and the keeper of, as well as the brains and the fire behind, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI).  The NBTC benefits from the participation of myriad conservation partners, including more than two dozen states and numerous organizations, agencies, universities and institutes.

A theme arising from the NBCI was “Raising our Game.”  The NBCI created high expectations and an immense new workload for quail managers accustomed to low expectations and profile.  To their credit, bobwhite managers across the country stood up to raise our game many notches in those next several years, getting organized nationally, becoming a recognized force, and racking up previously untouchable achievements.

The 2011 NBTC meeting is poised to set new standards.

First, the NBCI 2.0, the complete overhaul of the original NBCI, was unveiled this spring at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Kansas City, MO.  The NBCI 2.0 provides a springboard for the NBTC, building on the progress and lessons learned from the original, taking the vision and strategic planning for effective bobwhite conservation to a much higher level.

Second – although the professionals behind the NBTC always have prided themselves on conducting a working meeting with extensive subcommittee deliberations on heavy issues – this meeting has something new:  horsepower.

One year ago, at the 16th meeting in Wichita, KS, the first-ever fulltime NBCI staff (Science Coordinator, Forestry Coordinator, FSA Liaison, and Communications Director) were introduced as new hires.  Their roles, as experts in their respective disciplines, were to provide implementation capacity to the NBTC subcommittees, to forge real progress throughout the year on the subcommittees’ priorities and action items.  Last year, the NBCI staff was green; this year, they already are heavy lifting.

Third, an extra half day has been added for a first-ever NBTC technical workshop to provide specialized training for state quail coordinators.  Led by Tom Dailey (NBCI Science Coordinator) and Theron Terhune (TTRS Research Ecologist, and Project Coordinator for developing the NBCI 2.0), the workshop will improve the fledgling national inventory of quail conservation projects, and train state quail coordinators to use the NBCI 2.0’s Conservation Planning Tool.

Finally, this meeting features an opening presentation by Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and co-chair of the NBCI Management Board.  Wiley may be the first state quail coordinator in the country to rise to the level of director of a state wildlife agency.  I consider his rise to the top a good omen for quail.

There remains a long way to go for bobwhites and the NBCI, but with every step we raise our game, and we are one step further from where we started and another step closer to where we are going.

Stay tuned for reports and updates from Tallahassee by monitoring NBCI’s Facebook page at, and NBCI’s website at !











In Praise of ‘Quail Grunts’

Shell’s Covert

(Quail Grunts)

August 2011


For many of us in Virginia it’s hard to believe that as of July 1, 2011 we began the third year of implementing our latest Quail Recovery Initiative. We have two eventful years and many accomplishments behind us. Our newest quail team is pictured below.


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Photo Credit: Allen Boynton – VDGIF 

Left to right (standing): Bob Glennon, Jay Howell, David Bryan, Andy Rosenberger, Marc Puckett, (kneeling) – Katie Martin, Debbie Wright, Galon Hall.


All of our partners (partnerships – the first key to success), including the hundreds of private landowners who have done more than “talk the talk,” are indispensible to quail recovery in Virginia. There are several key partners that deserve special thanks:

The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, both in enabling the initiative to hire and support five private lands wildlife biologists, and in continuing to offer financial incentives through the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), is a “diamond” partner.

So is the Conservation Management Institute at Virginia Tech, without which the private lands biologists positions would not exist (or our VQC and QMAP list serves).

Add to this list the six Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) through which we offer the Wildlife BMP program (Big Walker, Chowan Basin, Culpeper, Halifax, Headwaters, and Three Rivers) and their supporting agency, the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

These partners form the backbone of the quail initiative.

And so many others contribute significantly to what has become the body of the Virginia quail initiative. These include: The US Forest Service, Dominion – Virginia Power, the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia, Virginia Dept. of Forestry, the Farm Services Agency, Appalachian Mountains Woodcock Initiative, Quail Unlimited, Quail Forever, the Ruffed Grouse Society, the Department. of Mines, Minerals and Energy, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and the Environment, The National Wild Turkey Federation, the Virginia Chapter of The Wildlife Society, American Electric Power, River Birch Farm, Reese Farms,  Virginia Trappers Association, US Army Corps of Engineers, the National Audubon Society, Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, and the Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Of the team pictured above, five are our private lands wildlife biologists (David Bryan, Bob Glennon, Katie Martin, Andy Rosenberger and Debbie Wright). They are the true force behind our QRI – the “unsung heroes” without whom implementing the quail initiative would be ineffective.