Good Hatch Continues across Region
Several demographic measures indicate an improved hatch is occurring in the Red Hills and Albany area plantations. One of the best indicators is above average survival of adults during the breeding season; on most sites over 50% of our radioed birds are still alive through July. High survival of adults is the most important variable that is highly correlated to chick production and population size.
At TTRS our nesting rate has been good and with continued high survival of adults there is good potential for continued productivity over the last 2 months of the nesting season. A third indicator of a strong hatch is very high male incubation of nests. Fully 38% of our radioed males have incubated a nest. When male incubation is high we typically we see good autumn quail populations. Collectively, these indicators add up to many more birds in the population this fall in the Red Hills.
Survival of chicks during the early brood period has also been good compared to last two years. On TTRS we have averaged 6.7 chicks per brood capture, which is slightly above our long-term average. Another indicator of good chick survival is our number of brood captures with “mixed broods” or groups of chicks with different ages. It makes sense that as more broods hatch off, with good survival, the opportunity for mixed broods goes up.
In Albany, the 2008 growing season so far has been much better than the previous two, which were hindered by severe drought. Consistent rainfall beginning in June has contributed to improved reproductive output in the Albany area. At the mid-point of the summer (July 15) the per capita production was running about 25% ahead of the previous two years. The extent of the recovery in fall populations this year will depend on what happens during the remainder of the nesting season.
Feed Rate Study Shows some Interesting Trends
With the cost of grain sky-rocketing, the Game Bird Program in Albany and at TTRS is assessing the effects of different feed rates on bobwhite behavior, survival, and hunting success and assessing different types of feeding programs on hunting success and populations. One goal is to measure the loss of feed from feed trails (each season) and compare this to how bobwhites use remaining supplemental feed. Ryan Miller is heading up this project on TTRS. Loss of sorghum from insect consumption during the early part of the summer was very high and warm wet weather resulted in germination of much of the seed over a two-week period. Overall, the loss of feed from the feed trail occurs very quickly during the summer time except at the highest rates fed. We will pair this information with intensive telemetry this fall and winter to see how coveys respond.
Last hunting season on Plantations in Albany and in the Red Hills managers kept records of hunting success in relation to time since a course was fed. The results thus far are mixed, with some properties showing no effect and others finding a greater numbers of coveys seen and pointed during the second week and third week following feeding. While these results are preliminary they are an important part of our efforts to explain the relationships between feeding and quail behavior. We will be asking for more plantations to help to collect similar data this year to get a better handle on this issue.
New Avian Predator Monitoring
2008 marks the 17th consecutive nesting season in which the Albany Quail Project has monitored radio-tagged birds. Beginning in March, the Albany Project has been conducting avian predator surveys every two weeks to develop an index of their abundance per 100 miles of transect line (roads) through the plantation community. The point of this project is to assess the relationship between changing seasonal and annual abundance of avian predators on bobwhite demographics and populations and track long-term trends in the avian predator community. This information in concert with rodent population information will be helpful for understanding long-term and seasonal trends in bobwhite populations and will help to refine management in relation to current conditions. Similar research is paired at TTRS.