DNR Updates: See Eagle Release in Paradise

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GaWild masthead: sea turtle hatchlings

Rehabbed eagles returned to the wild

Eagle release at Paradise PFA

The Southeastern Raptor Center has been busy rehabilitating bald eagles this summer.

The heart-lifting results include the recent release of two fledgling eagles.

One was returned to the wild at the Girl Scouts’ Camp Pine Acres on Lake Allatoona, where anglers found the eagle injured in June. The other bird, discovered malnourished and near death in Irwin County, was released at nearby Paradise Public Fishing Area.

Both young eagles are in debt to the Auburn University center, the Georgia Wildlife Rescue Association and a caring public, including Dr. Larry Branch at Quailwood Animal Hospital in Tifton.

Watch the eagle release at Paradise.

Go Wild nongame plate

How you can help

Buying and renewing a DNR eagle or hummingbird license plate provides critical funds to conserve Georgia's bald eagles and other nongame wildlife. Upgrade to a wild tag for only $25 and show your support!

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Notch another record for loggerhead nesting

Little St. Simons sea turtle workers with hatchlings

It's August 1998. Georgia’s sea turtle nest monitoring program is growing. Georgia’s primary nesting sea turtle, the loggerhead, is only holding on.

New program coordinator Mark Dodd tallies loggerhead nests for the season. 1,068. Not bad considering there were 816 the summer before. But still shaky for a species on the brink.

Flash forward to August 2015. In 17 years, the story has changed. Big-time.

This season there have been at least 2,290 loggerhead nests. That's a record high since comprehensive surveys began in 1989 and more than double when Dodd started work with Georgia DNR.

Even better, he expects genetic analysis that will likely confirm loggerheads made most of the 30 nests marked as "unknown species,” plus the discovery during hatching of nests not detected when they were laid, will push the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative’s count to about 2,330-2,350. 

Sea turtle nesting charg

Whatever the final number, it will continue a multi-year surge that indicates the beach-nesting species federally listed as threatened is recovering. Dodd’s perspective has undergone a similar sea-change over his DNR career, which included a low of 358 nests in 2004.

“If you had asked me less than 10 years ago, I would’ve said there’s a possibility we’ll lose loggerhead nesting in Georgia,” he said.

By comparison, trending concerns this year have been the increasing problem of coyotes raiding nests and human impacts on nesting habitat, such as too much hotel lighting and improper storage of beach equipment.

Yet Dodd also worries that progress toward federal benchmarks for delisting loggerheads could result in efforts to loosen fishery restrictions and other measures that have helped conserve the species.

Teasing out how effective each has been in turning around loggerhead nesting is difficult.

But, speaking of the nest protection and monitoring provided by the 200-plus Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative members, Dodd said, “We feel pretty confident that our management efforts are having a significant impact.”

See loggerhead hatchlings scramble for the surf on Cumberland Island.

Coyote at Little St. Simons. Credit: Lauren Gingerella/Little St. Simons Island

Turtle notes

  • As the season wanes, the latest new nest was made by a loggerhead on Little Cumberland Island Thursday. But as eggs hatch, Sea Turtle Cooperative members sometimes find nests they didn’t detect when they were made.
  • The mean hatch success is at 70 percent, which is great, DNR's Mark Dodd said. Without the Sea Turtle Cooperative’s nest management, he estimates the success rate would be 45-50 percent.
  • With more than 65 percent of nests emerged, even if tropical storm Erika, expected to reach Florida next week, brings a storm surge to Georgia, the impact on nesting will be diminished.
  • Although this year's total will be a small increase over the previous record -- 2,289 nests in 2013 -- the longer-term trend of nesting increasing about 3 percent a year (see chart) is "an exceptionally good rate ... for a long-lived species with a low maximum-population growth rate," Dodd writes.
  • Sea turtle strandings in Georgia are at 121 this year, slightly below average. Fishing-related mortalities have accounted for about 26 percent of deaths, and boat collisions for 19 percent.
  • Loggerhead profile. Nesting season updates.


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A T-shirt for your thoughts

Summer is fading. Fall bird migration is starting. Sea turtle nesting is ending.

Yep, it’s time again for the annual Georgia Wild survey. This is where we ask you to tell us what you like or don’t about the newsletter. Complete the survey, include your email – it’s one of the questions – and you’ll be in the running for one of five wildlife tag T-shirts. 

The survey helps us improve Georgia Wild and gives you chance to improve your wardrobe.

This where that win-win cliché truly fits.

Take the survey.

Sept. 16 is the deadline for entries. DNR employees are not eligible for the T-shirt giveaway.

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The Defense Department awarded $2 million from its Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program Challenge to benefit gopher tortoises on 7,016 acres at forts Benning and Stewart. The bases have joined with the DNR, Knobloch Family Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Forest Service in a $16 million effort to help keep tortoises off the Endangered Species list, a change that could affect training on bases.

Gopher tortoise hatchling. Dan Quinn/UGA

Gopher tortoise eggs collected this summer for a head-start program are hatching, reports Dan Quinn of the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. Using eggs from 2014, the collaboration between the UGA lab, DNR and St. Catherines Island led in June to the state’s largest tortoise release (Help for Yuchi tortoises,” June 18).

More than 90 Etowah darters were collected in annual monitoring at Raccoon Creek, according to cooperators The Nature Conservancy, Kennesaw State University, Corblu Ecology Group and DNR. The partnership working to restore and conserve the northwest Georgia stream and its watershed reports that catch rates for the endangered fish had been near zero since 2011.

The unmarked gopher frog a UGA crew found at Williams Bluffs Preserve is a promising sign for efforts to create a breeding population of the rare frogs at The Nature Conservancy site near Blakely. John Maerz of UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources writes that the metamorphic frog may be the second seen that wasn’t released but originated from on-site breeding (also: "Eggs mark leap forward,” Feb. 28, 2013).

Dr. Theron Terhune (L)/Tall Timbers Research Station; Reggie Thackston/GaDNR

Bobwhite quail recovery efforts by DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division and Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy earned a Group Achievement award from the National Bobwhite Technical Committee for the Northern Bobwhite Quail Translocation Policy. Through putting into place and practice rigorous standards for translocating wild quail into quality habitat, the policy has helped restore bobwhite populations on 18,700 acres in southwest Georgia and north Florida. Also, via a Legacy Landscape award, the committee recognized the Red Hills and Albany regions, where landowners have intensively managed more than 700,000 acres of pine savanna and early succession habitat to support high numbers of bobwhites and other wildlife. (Pictured, from left: Tall Timbers' Dr. Theron Terhune and DNR Private Lands Program Manager Reggie Thackston.)

Land is valuable, and participants in the Sept. 17 Agroforestry and Wildlife Field Day at UGA’s Griffin campus learn ways to increase the value of the land they use. Topics vary from wildlife openings to prescribed fire and pond management. Register by Sept. 3.

Trails are valuable, too, and a Georgia Conservancy campaign to fund its Cumberland Island Trail Restoration Project secured more than $56,000 through REI’s Every Trail Connects program. The Cumberland project’s goal: Make all trails on the National Seashore “open, accessible and navigable.”

A note to Gmail users: If Georgia Wild issues are going to your Promotions tab and you’d rather they land in the Primary tab (we agree!), here’s how to make the switch.

In other landing news, a juvenile brown booby spotted this month in Dunwoody has stirred the Georgia birdosphere. The booby, a seabird more common in tropical waters, was the first documented in DeKalb County, and unfortunately hasn’t been since in the state.

Names: DNR malacologist Jason Wisniewski, former DNR biologist Andrew Gascho Landis and Sandy Abbott of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a study in River Research and Applications exploring how adding water to increase a stream’s flow during drought affects mussels. The DNR Law Enforcement Division named Cpl. Casey Jones from Murray County the division's 2015 Ranger of the Year. Cpl. Bob Holley, assigned to Crisp County, received the James R. Darnell Award as runner-up. Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites presented First Lady Sandra Deal its inaugural Champion Award. The Board of Natural Resources this week recognized Ann Haines of Forsyth , who visited all 67 Georgia state parks in two years. Haines, who started her quest while still working full-time, had this message for Georgians: “I would encourage you to get out there!” Ronald Essig, a section chief in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Division, is the new president of the American Fisheries Society. Orianne Society CEO Dr. Chris Jenkins has been nominated a second time for the Indianapolis Prize, the Indianapolis Zoo’s honor for leading conservationists. The ribbon-cutting for a Hall County kiosk where Hall and Banks County residents can renew their license plates – including wildlife tags – drew DNR’s Pete Griffin and eagle, pictured below (from left) with Hall Tax Commissioner Darla Eden, Motor Vehicle Division Director Georgia Steele of the state Revenue Department and Banks Tax Commissioner Becky Carlan.

Hall/Banks license plate ribbon-cutting


Coming up:

  • Bird banding at Panola Mountain State Park: 6 a.m. Aug. 29; 6:15 a.m. Sept. 12; 6:20 a.m. Sept. 20; 6:30 a.m. Oct. 4; 6:50 a.m. Oct. 24; 6:50  a.m. Oct. 31; 6 a.m. Nov. 14, 21; 6:30 a.m. Dec. 5, 19. Charlie Muise, Georgia Important Bird Areas coordinator.
  • Sept. 17 – 2015 Agroforestry and Wildlife Field Day, UGA campus, Griffin
  • Sept. 19 – Birds of prey presentation by DNR’s Pete Griffin and Linda May, 11 a.m.-noon, Milton Branch library, Milton
  • Sept. 24 -- A fishy affair: malicious ... but delicious (fundraiser for Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, featuring chefs cooking invasive lionfish), The Landings Plantation Club, Savannah
  • Sept. 27 – Your State Parks Day, Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites’ celebration of National Public Lands Day
  • Sept. 29 – Georgia Prescribed Fire Council annual meeting, UGA Campus Conference Center, Tifton
  • Sept. 30: Integrated Management for the Control of Chinese Tallow (free webinar), 1-2 p.m., Southern Fire Exchange (presenter: Lauren Pile, PhD candidate, Clemson University). Registration required. 
  • Oct. 2-4 – Georgia Ornithological Society annual fall meeting, Villas by the Sea, Jekyll Island
  • Oct. 3 – CoastFest, DNR Coastal Regional Headquarters, Brunswick
  • Oct. 15-16 – Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance annual symposium and fall meeting, Susan Shipman Environmental Learning Center, DNR Coastal Regional Headquarters, Brunswick
  • Nov. 13 – 2015 Outdoor Learning Symposium, Council of Outdoor Learning, Fortson 4-H Center, Hampton

What you missed in the last Georgia Wild ...

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News of nongame and related issues

   "UGA collaboration discovers toxic chemical in birds outside of Superfund site," UGA. Also: "How chemicals from one Superfund site spread on the Georgia coast," WABE 90.1 FM
   "Bobwhite quail restoration work in Southwest Georgia recognized," The Albany Herald
   "Installations, partners in three states win awards for habitat protection," Association of Defense Communities
   "Big Boy, alligator behind Evans business, put down because of aggressiveness," The Augusta Chronicle
   "Lighting survey on Jekyll shows improvements," The Brunswick News
   "July 2015 was warmest month ever recorded," EarthSky
   "For trout fishermen, climate change will mean more driving time, less angling," Penn State
   "A rising tide of concern," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
   "UF/IFAS scientists warn of pharmaceutical peril for aquatic organisms in urban rivers," University of Florida
   "Hummingbird tongues are way weirder than we thought," Washington Post
   "Court invalidates 30-year 'eagle take' rule," The Birding Wire
   "Rattlesnakes in the southern highlands," The Orianne Society
   "The bar-tailed godwit: a marathoner who makes it look easy," Audubon
   "Aquatic hunger games: Archerfish spit the distance for food,"  Wake Forest University
   "Scientists are still baffled by monarch migration," Smithsonian
   "Breeding bird distribution affected by wind turbines in the Dakotas," U.S. Geological Survey
   "Cougars may provide a net benefit to humans," ScienceNews
   "Marine mammals thriving in Thames," BBC

Video & Audio

   (audio) "Snakes lurking in Atlanta are more active in late summer," WABE 90.1 FM (NPR)
   "Gator nest hatching" (year's first hatch on Jekyll Island), Applied Wildlife Conservation Lab
   "Watch an eagle punch a drone out of the sky," Quartz
   "Ladybugs take off -- in slow motion," Blue Paw Artists
   "Man has shocking wild bear encounter while camping," FaithTap


** Masthead: Loggerhead hatchlings push through protective mesh on nest. GaDNR
** Larry Branch releases eagle at Paradise Public Fishing Area. Dean Barber/GaDNR
** Little St. Simons' Lauren Gingerella and Cassandra Waldrop with loggerhead hatchlings. Mark Dodd/GaDNR
** Coyote at Little St. Simons nest in 2014. Lauren Gingerella/LSSI
** Gopher tortoise hatchling. Dan Quinn/UGA Savannah River Ecology Laboratory
** Dr. Theron Terhune of Tall Timbers Research Station and DNR Wildlife Resources Division Private Lands Program Manager Reggie Thackston with National Bobwhite Technical Committee awards. 
** Tag kiosk opens in Hall County. Robin Hill/GaDNR

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