Tuesday, November 25, 2008

WILD Facts: Deer

The white-tailed deer breeding season, also called the rut, runs from October to January in Georgia. During this time, bucks mark their territory by rubbing their antlers on trees and shrubs. They may also fight with each other, using their antlers and front feet to see which
male is dominant.

Bucks and does travel more than usual when searching for a mate. Therefore, hunters have a better chance of seeing and harvesting a deer during the rut, especially during the height of breeding activity. Although the peak of the rut varies by location, it normally occurs about mid-November in Georgia’s Piedmont region.

WILD Fact is a regular feature written by Linda May, a wildlife interpretive specialist with the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division based at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield, Georgia.

Friday, November 21, 2008

All New! Georgia Outdoors: Kayak

Georgia Outdoors: Kayak

Friday, Nov 21, 9:30 PM
Saturday, Nov 22, 6 PM
Tuesday, Nov 25, 7:30 PM

Developed by the Inuit culture more than a thousand years ago, the kayak has held a long indelible attraction for outdoor adventurers. Whether it’s the exciting rush of taking on a river rapid or the quiet serenity of navigating backwater creeks, the sport of kayaking draws enthusiasts from all walks of life.

When given the task of producing a program on kayaking, the Outdoors crew jumped at the chance to learn a little about the sport themselves. The crew enlisted the help of the Whitewater Learning Center of Georgia to be their teacher and set out to become master white water kayakers. Graduation: The class two rapids on the upper Chattahoochee River.

Sea kayaking, on the other hand, is specially designed for a more relaxed experience than whitewater kayaking. Sea kayaking affords a diversity of opportunities to explore Georgia’s riverine and coastal ecosystems. From the serene vantage point of a sea kayak a paddler’s perspective affords the opportunity to view wildlife and awe at the splendor of Georgia’s waterways.

We’ll also learn more about how kayaks are made and an Atlanta kayak club.

Click here to view a promo of this all new Georgia Outdoors!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hoarders’ top fall chore? Store!

Folks used to store homegrown foods for winter. Now, most depend on the local grocery store. Our wildlife neighbors aren’t so fortunate. Many of them hoard food to survive the winter.

Autumn provides more fruits, berries and seeds than any other season. But by late February this cornucopia is depleted. For weeks, I’ve watched some of my backyard neighbors storing food. Let’s take a peek at the food-caching habits of four mammals common to backyards across the Peach State.

One of the most fascinating is the flying squirrel, a nocturnal critter. Georgia has two species: The northern flying squirrel, with a range extending into the state’s northeast corner, and the southern flying squirrel, found in all 159 counties. Flying squirrels store a variety of seeds but prefer hickory nuts and acorns (particularly white oak). It is believed a flying squirrel can store several hundred acorns and other seeds in one night, and 15,000 or more in a year. They stuff them in their nests, tree cavities and crotches of limbs, and even bury some in the ground.

The white-footed mouse is another nocturnal hoarder. This attractive rodent is fond of cherry seeds but also likes hickory, conifer, basswood, raspberry, viburnum and jewelweed seeds. Beechnuts are another favorite. A biologist once found a white-footed mouse’s cache of almost a peck of beechnuts in a hollow tree. Other larders have been discovered in boots, milk bottles and teakettles.

Cartoons often depict gray squirrels storing nuts in hollow trees. While gray squirrels use tree cavities, they are scatter hoarders and usually bury their food – upwards of 25 nuts in a half-hour. Each squirrel maintains about 1,000 caches and stores about 10,000 seeds and nuts a year. Gray squirrels are most fond of acorns, but also store seeds including honey locust, pecan and chestnut. The catch: A squirrel typically relocates 50-85 percent of its hidden treasure.

Eastern Chipmunks are one our most energetic hoarders. They store food throughout the year, but activity peaks in late summer and fall. Any chipmunks you spot now likely will be scampering toward a burrow, its cheek pouches bulging grotesquely. Chipmunks can carry as many as 32 beechnuts, 31 kernels of corn, seven acorns or 70 sunflower seeds at a time in these elastic pouches!

It’s not unusual for a chipmunk to store 900 acorns in a day. And if you could peer into their burrows in winter you would often find them atop a half-bushel or more of acorns, cherry pits, hickory nuts and other seeds. They might sleep through winter’s coldest days, but chipmunks have no trouble finding dinner when they awake.

If you find the stores of one of these fascinating critters during fall, leave it alone. Without this bounty, the animal that spent countless hours gathering it may not make it through the long winter.

Terry Johnson is a former Nongame program manager with the Wildlife Resources Division, a noted backyard wildlife writer and expert, and executive director of TERN, the friends group for Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Welcome Back Whales

It is seen from a research vessel lookout - a solitary V-shaped “blow” and then something dark on the water’s surface. Often, the return of right whales to Georgia is as subtle as that. But this winter, thanks to a new ruling more of these imperiled whales will have a better chance at making the annual journey safely.

In October, the National Marine Fisheries Service established a rule that will implement speed restrictions for vessels 65 feet or longer. The restrictions call for a speed of no more than 10 knots during certain times of the year in areas designated as critical right whale habitat along the U.S. Atlantic seaboard. The rule goes into effect Dec. 9, 2008. Shipping interests can find additional information at this website.

It is important to note that not only commercial ships can cause mortal injuries to right whales. Recreational fishing boats and other large personal recreational boats can also have a devastating impact on the whales, which are found as close as three miles offshore depending on water depth. Although larger recreational boats are not required to adhere to the commercial speed limit, it is recommended that they heed the rule as well.

North Atlantic right whales spend the summer in the cooler waters off New England and Canada. Each fall, a portion of the population returns to Georgia and Florida for the winter. Annual research done by the DNR Wildlife Resources Division and NOAA from December through March is helping wildlife biologists determine the status of these endangered

Right whales were nearly driven to extinction by commercial whaling in the late 19th century. Commercial harvest was banned in 1935. Today the North Atlantic right whale is classified as endangered under U.S. and Georgia law. Right whales are listed as a priority species in Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan, the blueprint for conservation in the state. Georgia adopted the right whale as its state mammal in 1985.

Although not hunted now, right whales face conservation problems including ship strikes, entanglement in commercial fishing gear and habitat destruction. Even after nearly 50 years of protected status, there are only an estimated 300 to 400 North Atlantic right whales left.

To learn more about right whales watch:

Georgia Outdoors: Coastal Sports and Wildlife

Georgia Outdoors: Conservation Success Stories

Georgia Outdoors: Favorite State Symbols

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WILD Fact: Head-turning owls

Four species of owls live in Georgia year-round: great-horned, barred, barn and eastern screech (in order of largest to smallest). These birds of prey use their excellent hearing and eyesight to hunt at night.

Contrary to popular belief, owls can't turn their heads all the way around. However, the extra bones in their neck allow them to turn their head about three-quarters of the way around (we can only turn our heads about halfway, from our chin to each shoulder). This adaptation is necessary since owls’ large eyes are fixed to look straight ahead; they can’t roll their eyes side to side and up and down like we can.

WILD Facts is a regular feature written by Linda May, a wildlife interpretive specialist with the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division.

For a list of Georgia Outdoors episodes featuring birds and birding visit this website.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Report nesting eagles

Georgians who spot nesting bald eagles can report the sightings.

The Wildlife Resources Division monitors known eagle nests and works with landowners to help protect them. Georgia’s nesting eagle population has been increasing, with new nesting territories established each year. Bald eagles return to these territories in late summer or early fall and usually have eggs by December. The eggs hatch about a month after being laid and the young leave the nest about 12 weeks later, typically in late March or April.

Information that might indicate the presence of nesting eagles can be forwarded to the Wildlife Resources Division by filling out a form available on their website.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Project Feeder Watch

Thousands of bird watchers in Georgia and across the nation will be keeping a close eye on their feeders this winter as part of Project FeederWatch. The 22nd season for this popular citizen-science project runs from Saturday, Nov. 8, through April 3. But it's not too late to join!

FeederWatch participants help scientists monitor changes in bird populations by tracking birds at their feeders during the 21 weeks. Georgians are encouraged to join in, contributing to the science, conservation and enjoyment of North American feeder birds.

Project FeederWatch surveys birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas and other sites. Participants periodically count the highest numbers of each species they see at their feeders for the period. The data help scientists track broad-scale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.

Watchers also benefit. More than 100 studies have shown that getting closer to nature reduces stress and promotes a feeling of well being.

Highlights from the most recent season include the largest southward movement of red-breasted nuthatches in the project’s history, part of an expected influx of northern birds flying farther south when their food supplies run short, according to FeederWatch. Among rare birds reported was a streak-backed oriole in Loveland, Col. - the state’s first report of this Mexico native - and a dovekie deposited by a December nor’easter in Newton, Mass., the first time this North Atlantic seabird has been recorded in Project FeederWatch.

The project is conducted by individuals and groups of all skill levels. While the season opens Saturday, participants are encouraged to join any time.

To learn more or sign up, visit Project Feeder Watch website or call the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473. The fee is $15 ($12 for lab members). Participants receive the "FeederWatcher’s Handbook,” an identification poster of the most common feeder birds in their area, a calendar, instructions and the FeederWatch annual report, “Winter Bird Highlights.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Premiere Episode: Animal Architects

Georgia Outdoors: Animal Architects

Friday, Nov 14, 9:30 PM
Saturday, Nov 15, 6 PM
Tuesday, Nov 18, 7:30 PM

We humans do not have a monopoly on design and structure. From the smallest anthill to the largest eagles nest, the animal kingdom is populated by a variety of species who build. Georgia is home to an abundance of animal architects.

Our state reptile, the gopher tortoise digs deep burrows in the ground along the sandy soils of South Georgia. Along our lakes and bodies of water you’ll often spot huge osprey nests used by their residents from year to year. Even in your own back yard you’ll find a startling array of animal homes, nests and burrows.

Some of the most commonly seen are built by invertebrate species such as arachnids, insects, and crustaceans. For example, our only land dwelling crustacean, the crayfish, digs a deep burrow and you can often see the chimneys of these cousins of the lobsters along the muddy banks of our streams and rivers. Spiders build elaborate webs in trees, along soffits, and just about anywhere you look. But perhaps, our most commonly seen animal structures are built by social insects like bees, wasps, and ants!

Learn more about these and other industrious animals on Georgia Outdoors: Animal Architects.

Watch Georgia Public Broadcasting on these nine stations across Georgia: Atlanta - Channel 8; Albany - WABW/14, Augusta - WCES/20, Chatsworth - WCLP/18, Columbus - WJSP/28, Dawson - WACS/25, Macon - WMUM/29, Savannah - WVAN/9, Waycross - WXGA/8.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Volunteers With Ear, Heart For Frogs Sought For Survey

The frogs are calling. The question is, will Georgians who know what they’re hearing answer?

The second year of a calling frog survey in Georgia starts Jan. 15. There are 78 survey routes but only about 30 volunteers lined up to cover them. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, needs some 50 more listeners who can decipher the croaks, trills and peeps of Georgia’s 31 frog species.

The effort is important. The North American Amphibian Monitoring Program survey developed by the U.S. Geological Survey is aimed at tracking regional and national trends in frog distribution and abundance. Given the sensitivity of amphibians to air and water quality changes, those trends can signal environmental problems and shape conservation priorities. But in Georgia, baseline data is needed first.

Which means more survey volunteers with an ear and even a heart for frogs.

Before being assigned one of the pre-set routes scattered across the state, participants must pass an online quiz testing their ability to audibly identify frog species. Helpful resources include the online supplement to the new reference “Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia.” published by the University of Georgia Press. The DNR Wildlife Resources Division also has available the compact disk "Calls of the Wild -Vocalizations of Georgia's Frogs.”

The quiz is available online at and allows would-be monitors to test their skills.

Volunteers are asked to commit to the survey for at least three years, underscoring the need for consistency in such citizen-science projects. Routes are run three nights a year, once each in three call periods: Jan. 15-Feb. 28, March 15-April 30 and May 15-June 30.

To sign up or find out more, contact the Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section at (478) 994-1438.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Premiere Episode! Georgia Outdoors: License to Fish

Georgia Outdoors: License to Fish
Friday, Nov 7, 9:30 PM

Saturday, Nov 8, 6 PM
Tuesday, Nov 11, 7:30 PM

Fishing in Georgia is a tradition that's been enjoyed from generation to generation throughout the years. Whether you're fishing for bream in a small pond or public fishing area, striper or largemouth bass in one of our many large reservoirs or angling for tarpon or shark in our coastal waters, there's something for everyone in Georgia's waters. All you need is a fishing license and you can enjoy fishing across the state.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Delayed Harvest Trout Streams Open Today

North Georgia offers few better ways to observe fall foliage beauty than a trip to a trout-filled delayed harvest mountain stream. With more than 4,000 miles of trout streams and three species of trout, there are simultaneous fishing and leaf-viewing opportunities closer than you think.

The five trout streams managed under delayed harvest regulations are the Toccoa River located on U.S. Forest Service land upstream of Lake Blue Ridge in Fannin County (from 0.4 miles above Shallowford Bridge to 450 feet above the Sandy Bottom Canoe Access), Amicalola Creek on the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area (from Steele Bridge Road downstream to Georgia Hwy. 53), Smith Creek at Unicoi State Park, the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta (Sope Creek, downstream of Johnson Ferry Road, downstream to the Hwy 41 bridge) and a portion of the Chattooga River (from Ga. Hwy. 28 upstream to the mouth of Reed Creek) on U.S. Forest Service land bordering South Carolina.

These streams are catch and release only during the delayed harvest season and also are restricted to artificial lures with one single hook from Nov. 1 - May 14.

In addition to the excellent fall fishing opportunities delayed harvest streams provide, there also are ample year-round trout fishing opportunities in a number of Georgia streams. These designated year-round streams are open to fishing throughout the year.

Where to go:

Blue Ridge Tailwater: This tailwater is actually a stretch of the Toccoa River located downstream of Blue Ridge Lake in Fannin County and in many trout fishing circles is considered both blue-ribbon trout fishing and Georgia’s best kept secret. Anglers will find good numbers of both rainbow and brown trout, with an occasional trophy-sized fish caught. Most anglers prefer to float from shoal to shoal and then get out and wade to fish. Ultralight spinning gear and small spinners, such as rooster tails and panther martins, are best bets. Anglers should keep safety in mind - high water and strong currents can occur when the dam’s turbines are on. Keep a close eye on the water level and return to boats immediately if it starts to rise.

Noontootla Creek Watershed: This watershed offers some high quality year-round fishing for wild brown and rainbow trout, with many of its tributaries offering a chance at a wild brook trout (a real plus since most other brook trout waters are closed to fishing after Oct. 31). Both Noontootla and its tributaries are managed under an artificial lure only regulation and have a 16” minimum size limit in order to “recycle” the 8”-12” trout that make up most of the population.

Dukes Creek: This stream, located on the Smithgall Woods-Dukes Creek Conservation Area offers year-round trout fishing by reservation(706-878-3087). All fish caught here must be released immediately and anglers must only use artificial lures with barbless hooks. The stream offers a great chance at a trout over 20 inches, so bring your camera
for a quick shot before release. Best time to fish is after a rain discolors the water.

Chattahoochee River: For good trout fishing close to the metro Atlanta area, the Chattahoochee River downstream of Buford Dam offers family-friendly and close-to-home, year-round fishing for stocked rainbow and brown trout and wild brown trout. Part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, this location offers good bank, wading and boating access. The river will be stocked through the fall months to keep angler catches high. Year-round harvest is legal from Buford Dam to Sope Creek. Best fishing is at low flow when the river is clear to slightly stained.

Some additional notable year-round trout streams include the Conasauga River, Tallulah River and the Chattooga River.

To download free Georgia trout stream maps and other trout fishing tips, or for additional trout fishing information, visit www.gofishgeorgia.com.