New DNR Website Provides Detailed Information On In-Water Sea Turtle Research Activities
Since the 1970’s, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been a leader in providing important sea turtle data collected in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats in the Southeast, but historically DNR’s in-water activities have received less exposure than nest counts and stranded turtles on the beaches.
A new website provides a comprehensive overview of the past and present sea turtle research efforts by the Marine Resources Division. This new website contains information on sampling methodologies, major program findings ranging from sea turtle catch rates to reproductive studies, an outline of funding and permitting, and summarizes outreach and education efforts, which the website is intended to enhance.
Find out more at: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/sturtles/index.html.
“Launching this website feels great and it has been on the radar for awhile,” said DNR biologist and principal research investigator Michael Arendt. “We are grateful to the Marine Turtle Conservation Program for providing a forum to promote our activities in the formative years, but we’ve been involved in so many activities in the past decade that it was time for our parallel in-water program to be showcased accordingly.”
As their name implies, sea turtles live in aquatic habitats from which they only briefly emerge to deposit eggs or, in the case of some species, to bask in terrestrial habitats. It is critical that scientists study sea turtle populations in the water as well as monitor their annual nest counts on land. Sea turtles are found from estuaries to across ocean basins, which pose a challenge to gathering information; thus, mangers must compile lots of locally gathered information in order to comprehend the ‘big picture.’
The majority of the in-water sea turtle research conducted by the DNR has been performed by the Marine Resources Division (MRD) using trawls to capture sea turtles in coastal waters. Some aerial surveys, the stranding network, and the sea turtle reporting program managed by the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division’s Marine Turtle Conservation Program (MTCP) also provide valuable in-water observations for sea turtle management.
Feeding Summer Hummingbirds Provides Entertainment And Beauty
Hummingbirds, which artist John J. Audubon called “glittering fragments of the rainbow,” are once again darting around flowers and feeders in South Carolina, say state natural resources officials.
“Hummingbirds are as fascinating to study as they are beautiful to watch,” said Lex Glover, wildlife technician with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Columbia. Glover encourages South Carolina residents to landscape with flowers, hang out a feeder and invite hummingbirds to lunch: “In return, they’ll entertain you with their antics and add a little color to your life.”
Thousands of South Carolina residents enrich their summers by feeding hummingbirds. Male ruby-throated hummingbirds, which feature the characteristic metallic blood-red throat bib, began showing up in South Carolina in late March, with their white-throated mates arriving from the tropics about a week later. Most hummingbird activity around feeders, however, does not really pick up until midsummer. Do not despair if you had hummers at your feeder early during the migration period and now there are none. Some of those birds continued flying north and others stayed here but are busy raising young and taking advantage of plentiful natural food sources.
Under natural conditions, hummingbirds obtain sugar by eating the nectar of flowers and the sap of trees. Homeowners can duplicate this part of a hummer’s diet by placing a sugar solution in a hummingbird feeder, with the added attraction of getting to witness the antics of one of nature’s most delightful and colorful birds. “Hummingbirds consume 50 percent of their body weight daily in sugar, which makes it one of the most important food items in a hummer’s diet,” Glover said.
A wide variety of hummingbird feeders are now available on the market. If you have used the feeders in previous seasons, Glover said, be sure to wash the hummingbird feeder with hot water and vinegar or hot water and bleach to destroy all mildew and mold left over from last year, then rinse thoroughly with clean water. This is the most important thing to do to make these birds’ stay in the Palmetto State more enjoyable.
The sugar-water mixture for the feeders should be a ratio of four parts water to one part sugar; an easy-to-remember mixture is one cup of sugar per quart of water. This solution closely approximates the sugar content of nectar. Red dye is unnecessary-the red coloring on the feeder will suffice. Honey should not be used as a sweetener because honey-water solutions often harbor a fungus that can be harmful to the hummer.
“If you are putting a feeder up for the first time, don’t be discouraged if hummingbirds do not come right away,” Glover said. “It may take a while for them to find it and establish a visitation routine.” Be sure to keep the solution fresh especially as the days get warmer, because birds will not be attracted to a fermented solution.
Hummingbirds are attracted to tubular red flowers like red salvia, bee balm, trumpet creeper, cypress vine, crossvine, firecracker vine, red buckeye, native azaleas (Oconee, flame and plumleaf) and woodbine, and they will readily seek out others such as hibiscus, hollyhock, petunia and impatiens. Hummingbirds also feed on small insects.
Feeders can be left up well into the fall season, and this will not cause the hummers to delay their migration. Migratory birds base their departure date primarily on the changing day length, not on the availability of food. Actually, leaving feeders up into the fall will help the late migrants that stop for a rest on their way back to Mexico and Central America as their natural food sources may be limited at that time.
Natural Resources Board Meets June 27 In Mount Pleasant
The S.C. Natural Resources Board, the policy making body of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, will meet at 2 p.m. Weds., June 27 at the Clubhouse at Toler’s Cove Marina on 1610 Ben Sawyer Blvd. in Mount Pleasant.
Board meetings are open to the public and anyone with business for the board or needing directions to the meeting should contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Columbia office at (803) 734-9102. Johnny Evans of Orangeburg is chairman of the S.C. Natural Resources Board.
Items scheduled on the agenda for the S.C. Natural Resources Board meeting include:
• Constituent Comments
• Advisory Committee Reports
• Items for Board Action
Proposed Projects for Funding with FY 2013 Saltwater Recreational Fisheries License Funds
2012-13 State Waterfowl Stamp Budget
• Director’s Briefings
Deputy Directors’ Reports
Outreach and Support Services
Land, Water and Conservation
Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries
• Executive Session (if necessary)
Commercial License Needed To Sell Pen-Reared Quail
A growing market continues to exist for the sale of pen-reared bobwhite quail, but state natural resources officials say a commercial quail breeder’s license is needed before opening for business.
Before any individual can operate as a commercial quail breeder, state law requires that a commercial quail breeder’s license must first be obtained from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), according to Billy Dukes, DNR Small Game Project supervisor. This license is required for all quail species, not just the native bobwhite.
A quail breeder’s license from DNR costs $5. The license is valid from July 1 through the following June 30. For more information or a license application, write SCDNR, Quail Breeder’s License, PO Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202 or call (803) 734-3609 in Columbia.
“Even with an average annual wild quail population decline of about 4 percent, bobwhite quail is still one of the most popular game species in the Southeast,” Dukes said. “This creates a market for the sale of pen-reared bobwhite quail.”
During the 2010-11 South Carolina shooting preserve season, over 494,000 pen-reared quail were released for hunting, according to Dukes. This figure does not include the thousands of quail bought and released for hunting on lands other than preserves, purchased for the training of bird dogs, used in bird dog field trials, or sold strictly for human consumption.
Many pen-reared quail bought for recreational use were raised and sold by commercial quail breeders in South Carolina, Dukes said, and these individuals are required by state law to obtain a commercial quail breeder’s license from DNR. Exceptions to this law include hotels, restaurants, boarding houses and clubs that raise pen-reared quail to be consumed on the premises.
DNR Initiates Grassland Habitat Restoration Projects
Native grassland ecosystems have decreased considerably across the Southeast in the last century. In particular, longleaf pine savannas and woodlands with grassland understories have diminished significantly in range since European settlement.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is very fortunate to own several Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) that offer opportunities for ecological restoration projects. More specifically, approximately 12,000 acres of upland habitat on Woodbury (Marion Co.), Marsh (Marion Co.), and McBee (Chesterfield Co.) WMA’s are actively managed for grassland restoration.
So far, DNR has thinned (selective removal of trees) several hundred acres of pine timber on all three properties. The open forest canopy, resulting from these thinning operations, allows more light to reach the ground, thereby improving conditions for understory plant growth. In these thinned areas DNR staff has begun systematic application of prescribed fire. DNR plans to expand these management activities into additional stands as they mature. Positive results are already evident as native warm season grasses and forbs (an herb other than grass) have become more prevalent in the managed stands.
Pine savanna habitat is characterized by a relatively open forest canopy (generally longleaf pine) with an understory of native warm season grasses and forbs. Hundreds of plants grow only in this forest type and many wildlife species are specially adapted to this ecosystem. One recognizable species associated with pine savanna habitat is the red-cockaded woodpecker. Another notable grassland species, especially important to many sportsmen, is the northern bobwhite quail. Both the red -cockaded woodpecker and quail require the herbaceous (non woody plants) understory characteristic of open pine savannas to provide food and cover.
Grasslands also provide habitat for many reptiles, songbirds, and other game animals such as fox squirrels, eastern wild turkey, and white-tailed deer. In the Southeast, the lack of early successional (an understory dominated by colonizing herbaceous vegetation) grassland habitat has been the most significant factor contributing to the decline of northern bobwhite and other grassland bird species.
Disturbance is necessary to retain the grass and forb plant component in pine savanna habitat. In most cases, prescribed fire is the most efficient and beneficial method to maintain early successional habitat.
By controlling the frequency, intensity, pattern, and season of prescribed burning, forest managers can manipulate vegetation to promote a variety of outcomes to benefit wildlife. The use of prescribed fire can alter plant species occurring in a forest and affect the structural diversity of those species. Frequent fire generally promotes the growth of herbaceous vegetation by stimulating sprouting of grasses and forbs and by reducing hardwood encroachment.
The longleaf pine savanna habitat once covered approximately 90 million acres across the southeastern coastal plain region. This forest type was maintained by frequent fire propagated by native people and by lightning strike ignition. Native Americans and early European and African settlers recognized the benefits of maintaining fire in these forest systems for both themselves and wildlife.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a growing demand for wood products and naval stores, coupled with the suppression of fire, resulted in the loss of millions of acres of the longleaf pine ecosystem. Additionally, the conversion of pine savanna to other forest types, agriculture and development further reduced native grasslands. Currently, pine savanna covers less than three percent of its historic range.