Amid years of doom and gloom predictions for the bobwhite quail, we can see a bright light on the horizon. That bright light got a little brighter this fall as the Department and our partner Quail Forever began an effort to inventory quail numbers on several of our private land Quail Focus Areas (QFAs) for the first time. We compare what we find in the focus area to a similar area outside the focus area that is not being managed for quail by the landowners. The Departments’ ten year quail plan focuses our attention on these QFAs, where staff efforts and cost-share dollars are enhanced. Many of our QFAs were developed with the introduction of the Department’s quail plan in 2004 and have received our concentrated attention ever since.
Up to now only two focus areas in the entire state were inventorying bird numbers each fall with help from Quail Forever volunteers and Department staff. This year we partnered with Quail Forever volunteers to survey 3 additional focus areas around the state. Preliminary results of our October quail covey counts are coming across my desk this week. The proof that our concentrated efforts are the key to quail recovery have never been more evident.
The Knox County Quail Focus Area has been surveying quail numbers inside and adjacent to the focus area for 5 years. With this long-term survey they witnessed a yearly increase in quail numbers in the focus area until Snowmageddon hit at the end of January, 2011. Leaving a deep layer of snow and ice on the ground through February of that year, quail numbers inside and outside the QFA drastically dropped that year. Fast forward to 2013 which saw a 21% increase in quail numbers inside the QFA yet there has been a continued long-term decline in quail numbers surveyed outside the focus geography. This year’s surveys showed 5 times more birds in the focus area than outside.
The Carroll County Quail Focus Area began its first bird surveys with a spring whistle count and is just concluding their fall covey call count. There are 6 times more coveys this fall in the QFA than in the nearby unmanaged survey area.
The Scott County Quail Focus Area had a problem finding an unmanaged geography to survey; which may be a good thing? There were enough habitat improvements through USDA and Department programs that even the geography chosen for a control had numerous native grass field borders. Yet the numbers within the managed focus area were still 30% higher than the control.
The Stoddard County Quail Focus Area saw a 31% increase in quail numbers over last year and no birds were found on farms that had been mowed late in the summer.
The Cass County Quail Focus Area was surveyed for the first time last month and had an average of 2 more coveys for each of the four survey points in the QFA than in the unmanaged area.
Our best success for quail restoration appears to be in areas where a number of landowners work together in a concentrated area. The state’s quail population has declined to the point that individual landowners may not be successful in bringing quail back to a property. Or it can be difficult to sustain a quail population over the long-term. This is especially true when isolated quail habitat efforts are totally surrounded by inhospitable quail habitat and quail are uncommon on the landscape.
Read reporter Steve Campbell's update in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram on the status of efforts to cobble together hundreds of thousands of acres in a “North Texas Quail Corridor” to restore wild bobwhite populations on working cattle ranches.
"Quail, for all their fragility, can be amazingly resilient birds, with pairs producing multiple clutches of young when conditions are at their best. So all is not lost if an area can maintain suitable habitat and weather gives the birds and their landscape a break." Read more of what Shannon Tompkins writes in his look at the Texas quail situation in a recent story in the Houston Chronicle.
Shortleaf Pine Initiative
Stakeholder Workshop - Western Region
December 3-5, 2013
Ft. Smith, AR
Tuesday – December 3
8:00-5:00 Field Trip: Shortleaf Pine Restoration – Buffalo Road, USFS
7pm – 8pm Welcome Reception and Social – Holiday Inn
Wednesday – December 4
1) Provide an Overview of Shortleaf Pine Initiative and strategies.
2) Provide Breakout Sessions so partners can discuss specific issues related to shortleaf pine.
3) Discuss future restoration activities and partner involvement working toward desired ecological conditions.
7:00 - 8:00 Breakfast (on your own)
8:00 - 8:15 Welcome and Meeting Logistics – Black, NBCI, Anderson, TNC
8:15 – 8:30 Shortleaf Pine Initiative Overview and Timeline to Plan – Anderson, TNC
8:30 – 9:00 Shortleaf Pine in the Western Range – Chris Oswalt, USFS
9:00 – 9:30 Shortleaf Pine Working Group – Jane Fitzgerald, CHJV
9:45 - 10:00 Break
10:00 – 11:30 Shortleaf Pine Habitats
Outcome: A list of the types of habitats we are referring to as Shortleaf Pine habitats. Status and Trends.
11:30 – 1:00 LUNCH
1:00 – 2:00 Threats to Shortleaf Pine Habitats
Outcome: Prioritized list of threat to shortleaf pine habitats.
2:00 – 3:00 Barriers to Shortleaf Pine Restoration.
Outcome: Prioritized list of barriers to shortleaf pine habitat restoration.
3:00 – 3:45 Break
3:45 – 5:00 Restoration Actions Taken To Date
Outcome: A list of the types, size, success, and location of restoration actions undertaken to restore shortleaf pine habitats
Dinner On your Own
Thursday – December 5
Day 2- Objectives:
1) Provide Breakout Sessions so partners can discuss specific issues related to shortleaf pine.
2) Discuss future restoration activities and partner involvement working toward desired ecological conditions.
7:00 - 8:00 Breakfast (on your own)
8:00 – 8:15 Re-cap day one
8:15 – 10:00 Strategies Implementation of Shortleaf Pine Habitat Restoration
Outcome: Prioritized list of key strategies that would be most effective in getting to shortleaf pine habitat restoration
10:00 – 10:15 Break
10:15 – 11:30 Demonstration Sites in Western Region
Outcome: Mapped locations of current and potential shortleaf pine habitat restoration demonstration sites.
11:30 – 12:00 Road Map for the Future? - Martin Blaney, AGFC
1:00 SAF Meeting or Depart!
La Grange, TX – The Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture (OPJV) Partnership is pleased to announce a new program designed to help private landowners pay for the cost of wildlife habitat improvements on their property. The OPJV Grassland Restoration Incentive Program (GRIP) will pay qualifying landowners up to 75% of the estimated costs of eligible practices aimed at improving habitat for Northern Bobwhite and other grassland birds. Funding is available in the following Texas counties: Archer, Austin, Baylor, Callahan, Clay, Colorado, Dewitt, Ellis, Fayette, Gonzales, Karnes, Lavaca, Montague, Navarro, Shackelford, Stephens, Throckmorton, Washington, and Wilson.
The objective of the GRIP is to increase the amount of suitable habitat available to Northern Bobwhite and other grassland bird species which have been steadily declining throughout Texas for much of the past century. Along with unfavorable weather patterns, loss of suitable habitat has been the primary reason for the decline of these species. By improving habitat in key areas throughout the state, private landowners can help to address these historic declines that threaten the very existence of some of Texas’s most iconic bird species.
The GRIP is a partner-based, strategic approach to restoring grassland habitat on private land. This program is made available through generous support from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Upland Game Bird Stamp Funds, ConocoPhillips, Quail Coalition Chapters, and the National Wild Turkey Federation. Interested landowners in these counties should contact their local TPWD biologist for more information. Certain eligibility requirements for projects must be met in order to qualify for funding. TPWD biologists can be found at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/landwater/land/technical_guidance/biologists/.
About the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture
The OPJV is a regional, self-directed partnership of government and non-governmental organizations and individuals working across administrative boundaries to deliver landscape-level planning and science-based conservation, linking on-the-ground management with national bird population goals. The OPJV activities focus on a broad spectrum of bird conservation activities including biological planning, conservation design, conducting on-the-ground conservation delivery projects, organizing outreach, research, monitoring, creating decision support tools, and raising money for these activities through partner contributions and grants within the Oaks and Prairies Bird Conservation Region (BCR) and the Edwards Plateau BCR.
OPJV partner organizations include Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, National Wild Turkey Federation, American Bird Conservancy, Quail Coalition, Texas Wildlife Association, The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resource Conservation Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Native Prairies Association of Texas, Sutton Avian Research Center, University of North Texas Quail and various other local, state and national organizations. For more information on the OPJV visit www.opjv.org and follow @OPJV on Twitter.