Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rain on a Tin Roof

As I write, rain is making its music on the tin roof of this century-old hand-hewn pine log cabin in the heart of Conecuh National Forest. I just got back from riding roads in hopes of finding migrating ambystomatid salamanders, like tiger salamanders and (dare I hope) flatwoods salamanders. Not much is happening that I could see, other than a few southern toads and a spadefoot toad or two wandering about. But this is the first major warm rain of the late fall, and somewhere out there the winter-breeding amphibians are stirring near their formerly dry breeding sites. During the time I was out there, I saw no one, and it was as if the 80,000-plus acre forest was all mine. But now I see this disturbing news item about declining use of National Forests. I really wouldn't mind sharing with a few more people.

Monday, November 24, 2008


This makes no sense. A serious wildlife violator convicted of killing bald eagles with Carbofuran in Missouri was among 17 people pardoned by President Bush today. The back story is fuzzy, but I did glean the info below from a Google cache of the Summer 1996 newsletter, The Federal Wildlife Officer. I suspect more will come to light as this is looked into more closely. This was 12 years ago, and according to the article, the rather mild sentence consisted of a $10,000 fine and a 2-year probation that expired in the Clinton administration. So, does the guy get his ten grand back now?
On February 2nd, Leslie Owen Collier of Charlestown [sic], Missouri, pled guilty to two 16 USC counts of taking bald eagles and one Title 7 count of placing a restricted use pesticide contrary to its intended purpose. Collier was sentenced to two years' probation, barred from possessing a firearm during that period, and ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to FWS.

Collier had deliberately and improperly used Furedan [sic] to bait meat in order to kill animals on the property he was farming. The methods used by Collier were particularly dangerous because they presented a serious threat to many animals other than the intended targets, including humans and household pets. Among the animals killed by Collier's poisoned bait were three bald eagles, a red-tailed hawk, a great horned owl, a opossum, a raccoon and seven coyotes.
Carbofuran is known to be lethal to raptors, and was probably being used by Collier to kill coyotes. A relevant paper from Journal of Wildlife Diseases is here (pdf).

UPDATE: Let the Eagle Soar.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Red-cockaded Woodpecker Translocation

This is my first YouTube upload, so it's far from slick. I also need a better camera (hint to Santa), but I'll try to do more of these. This was last week at Ft. Benning GA and Sehoy Plantation AL. Part of a USFWS Partners for Wildlife grant that is funding the translocation of red-cockaded woodpeckers from public lands (so far Fts. Benning and Stewart) to Sehoy and Enon plantations. This is the only privately owned land in Alabama to ever receive red-cockaded woodpeckers, and it is one of only two known populations on private lands in Alabama. We moved 8 birds last year (with much success) and 8 again this past week. Young birds, a male and a female, are captured from different places at the donor site (they are "strangers") when roosting at dusk, and miles away and well after dark, each is placed in an artificial cavity that was previously installed at a "recruitment cluster" consiting of four cavity trees near each other. A screen is tacked over the entrance to make sure they don't exit early and the birds are released the following morning by pulling a string. With luck, they stick together and form a breeding pair.

One name I failed to include in the end credits is Joe McGlincy, who drove 4 birds from Ft Stewart several hours to our rendezvous in Eufaula, AL. Sorry, Joe; I'll re-do it when I can! Also thanks to Geoff Hill and Eric Soehren for being string pullers. Many others assisted in installation of cavities in September: Eric Spadgenske, Randy Roach, Bob Hastings, Mark Sasser, Jim McHugh, Beau Dudley, Eric Soehren, and probably others I'm forgetting.

EDIT: Upon re-reading, not enough credit is given here to Eric Spadgenske of USFWS without whom none of this would happen. Eric is 90% of the brains and expertise of the Alabama portion of this translocation project; I'm just happy to be involved.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voting in Wing

I just got back from my polling place (the volunteer fire department) in rural Wing, Alabama, where I voted fairly late in the day at 3:15 PM. I was in and out in under 5 minutes. I was the 164th person there all day, and they were telling me how busy they'd been. All things are relative, I guess.