DNR Updates: Power Project Helps Save Kestrels

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GaWild masthead: SE American kestrel (FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute)

Hangout for tagged manatees? Kings Bay

Tagged manatee

The five manatees recently fitted with satellite transmitters are doing what researchers hoped – spending plenty of time in and around Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.

The pilot project involving the Navy, DNR Nongame Conservation Section, Georgia Aquarium, Sea to Shore Alliance and others is aimed at understanding how these endangered mammals use Cumberland Sound near the base, and habitats along the rest of the Georgia coast.

Manatee tracking map

When last checked, the tagged manatees were within five miles of the base, although two weeks before they were spread from St. Augustine, Fla., to St. Simons Island, with one venturing up the Satilla River. Each appeared healthy and was behaving normally, according to DNR wildlife biologist Clay George.

Two were socializing with eight other manatees, and two were foraging with separate groups of manatees. “Altogether,” George writes, “we observed 20 manatees in an area 10 miles from north to south.”

This planned multi-year project marks the first time manatees have been tracked in Georgia using GPS. 

If you see a tagged manatee

Call DNR at 1-800-2-SAVE-ME (800-272-8363). Note the time, date, location, tag color and whether other manatees are present. Do not chase, touch or otherwise harass the manatee, or touch the tag (which floats on the surface behind the animal). Manatees are protected by federal and state law.

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Power-line nest project key for kestrels

Kestrel chick

A high-powered nest box project in Georgia is helping North America’s smallest falcon.

Southeastern American kestrels, a subspecies of the falcons often called sparrowhawks, declined an estimated 80 percent over the last half of the 20th century. The main culprit is habitat loss, including fewer suitable cavities for nesting.

Nest box

Of Georgia’s breeding populations, the largest is along a transmission line reaching west from Pierce County, through Tifton to Georgia Power Co.’s Plant Mitchell near Albany. Georgia Southern University research showed that hollow cross-arms on the power poles provide critical nest sites (Power in towers for kestrels,” January-February 2008). However, the hollow cross-arms are gradually being replaced as they rust with solid ones. 

In response, for almost 10 years Georgia Power has put up a nest box each time one of the cross-arms is replaced, said Jim Candler, company environmental affairs supervisor. “As these things wear out, we agreed it was important enough for us to figure out how not to eliminate that (nesting) habitat.”

Some 30 boxes have been added. And while nest boxes (example at left) are more vulnerable to predators than a cross-arm far above the ground, DNR Nongame Conservation Section surveys marked an average 17 percent annual increase in the Tifton line population, and an estimated 302 nesting pairs in 2014. 

DNR senior wildlife biologist Nathan Klaus is interested in applying survey data to fine-tune where boxes are placed. “Using nest box and helicopter surveys to develop models, we’ve almost tripled our rate of box use” in Fall Line sandhills populations of southeastern kestrels, Klaus said.

He’s also hopeful that a proposed nest box program, coupled with habitat restoration in the region, could help save a dwindling population of kestrels that is down to about 25 breeding pairs along a Macon-Columbus transmission line owned by another company.

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Answers on SWAP available here

Surveying Talking Rock Creek


What has been done through Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan? What are high-priority species? Does the plan establish regulations? (Hint: no.)

Got questions about the revised SWAP? We have answers.

Check out this FAQ . And don’t forget to review the draft of the revised plan, and provide comments to help shape it, online or at one of the following public meetings.

SWAP cover

SWAP is …

  • A statewide strategy to conserve populations of native wildlife species and the natural habitats they need before they become rarer and more costly to conserve or restore.
  • Created and put into practice by more than 100 conservation partners and stakeholders, including wildlife agencies and organizations, academic institutions, companies, and private landowners.
  • A wide-ranging effort involving species and habitats, varying from golden-winged warblers and gopher tortoises to Georgia asters and longleaf pine savannas.
  • Required by Congress for state wildlife agencies to receive State Wildlife Grants, the main federal funding source for states to conserve nongame wildlife.
  • Due a federally mandated review to include new data and reflect changing conditions at least every 10 years. (Georgia developed its initial SWAP in 2005.)

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Stranded sea turtle

Some stranded sea turtles recover after being rescued; and, unfortunately, some don't. Nongame Conservation Section and Georgia Sea Turtle Center staff carried this loggerhead found about a week ago at Little Cumberland Island to the center on Jekyll Island. But, sick and emaciated, the turtle died two nights later. Georgia’s Marine Turtle Stranding Network works to recover, document and rescue stranded turtles. Strandings are the primary index for the myriad threats marine turtles face in coastal waters. Stranding updates.

Bass anglers photographed an immature brown pelican recently on the Little River Arm of Clarks Hill Lake (J. Strom Thurmond). Though common on the coast, brown pelicans are seldom seen that far inland in Georgia, according to DNR wildlife biologist Todd Schneider.

Areas of Pelican Spit and St. Simons Island’s East Beach used by nesting seabird colonies have been roped off, part of DNR efforts to monitor and conserve beach-nesting birds. Nongame Conservation Section staff have also banded more than 19 American oystercatcher chicks so far this season on Ossabaw Island, Pelican Spit and Little Egg Island and Ogeechee bars. Remember to share the beach this summer!

The New Guinea flatworm, a highly invasive species, has made its way to Florida. A recent report says the voracious worms that grow up to 2.5 inches long and devour snails were found at several sites in Miami-Dade County, posing a threat to native invertebrates.

Black box turtle

It may be slow but this black box turtle below is turning heads. The turtle was found June 18 trying to build a nest along a road near Canton. Melanism, a development of dark-colored pigment and the opposite of albinism, is rare in eastern box turtles. The only light-colored pigment on this turtle, since released, is a small orange spot near each ear, writes DNR senior wildlife biologist John Jensen.

Learn how to increase your land’s value at the 2015 Agroforestry and Wildlife Field Day, Sept. 17 at the UGA campus in Griffin. More than 30 topics varying from prescribed burning to creating wildlife openings will be showcased, with continuing education credits available.

More than $17 million in financial and technical aid to help landowners nationwide protect and restore wetlands is being offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership. July 31 is the deadline for proposals to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Learn more about such programs in the updated Landowner’s Guide to Conservation Incentives in Georgia.

One ton of ivory was crushed at Times Square June 19 to raise help awareness of and stem illegal trade in ivory and the elephant poaching that underlies it (event video). Following the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s first Ivory Crush in 2013, several governments on other continents also destroyed ivory, highlighting the international scope of the issue.

Here's a sample of what you missed in the last Georgia Wild:

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   "Comment needed to help shape revised wildlife plan," Georgia Forestry Association. Also: Coastal Courier.
   "Florida beats Georgia" in Youth Birding Competition, The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun
   "Response to DNR forum 'positive''" on license fees, restructure proposals, Savannah Morning News
   "Forest Service sees hope in battle against bat disease," The Boston Globe
   "Five manatees tagged," The Periscope (Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay)
   "The call of the last golden-winged warbler in Georgia," The Wildlife Society
   "Beauty drives orchids towards extinction," ScienceNews
   "Speed kills: Why birds collide with vehicles," The Wildlife Society (citing USDA National Wildlife Research Center study)

Video and audio

   Snakes segment including DNR's John Jensen for "On second thought" radio program, GPB (the segment begins at 40:40)
   "Rabbit fights with snake to save the bunnies," YouTube
   (audio) "Race4Birds with DNR's Tim Keyes," BirdNote
   "U.S. crushes more than a ton of ivory in Times Square," CNN


** Masthead: Southeastern American kestrel. Florida FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
** Manatee TGA-012 socializing with another manatee in Cumberland Sound June 24. Clay George/GaDNR (image taken under USFWS research permit MA37808A-0)
** Map of manatee travels as of June 24. Image taken under USFWS research permit MA37808A-0.
** Kestrel chick. Ashley Harrington/GaDNR
** Kestrel nest box in middle Georgia (the same design used on the Georgia Power transmission line in south Georgia). Nathan Klaus/GaDNR
** Sampling Talking Rock Creek aquatics by seining. GaDNR
** DNR senior wildlife biologist Mark Dodd with stranded loggerhead. Ashley Raybould/GaDNR
** Black eastern box turtle. Special to GaDNR

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