The Vertebrate Ecology Program has just published a new booklet titled Lightning Season Burning: Friend or Foe of Breeding Birds that describes some of the benefits of burning later in the season (e.g., May to early June). The booklet is based on recent research conducted on properties in the Red Hills as well as an extensive literature search focused both on popular game species as well as several nongame species undergoing sharp population declines.
The threat posed to nesting birds by burning later in the season generally is not as severe as perceived, though additional research is needed for several species. Many ground nesting birds such as Bobwhite Quail and Bachman’s Sparrows prefer to nest in areas that have been burned recently (i.e., within the past 18 months), so the number of nests located in a 2-year rough that typically might be scheduled for a late-season burn will be small relative to the total number of nests constructed each year. Burns set in May also provide time for Bachman’s Sparrow nests to fledge but also are early enough to avoid peak nesting activity for Northern Bobwhite (typically occurring after June).
Land managers will always need to burn during the dormant season, and most may want to burn primarily during this time, but burning later in the season provides more burning opportunities during the calendar year and also can have some benefits for many pineland birds. To take a look at the new publication, click on this link or else contact Jim Cox (850.893.4153 ext. 223; firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask to have a copy mailed.
In other news, it was a productive year for Tall Timber’s fledgling population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. We banded seven nestlings at three nests, and all seven nestlings successfully fledged. Red-cockaded Woodpeckers were reintroduced to Tall Timbers just two years ago, so this is very encouraging news and indicates we are well on our way to establishing a self-sustaining population.
Our study of the effects of summer burning on Bachman’s Sparrow also is drawing to a close this summer. University of Georgia master’s candidate Clark Jones has been busy collecting a final season of field data with help from technician Jessica Lux. Thanks to a grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR), we are also experimenting with new monitoring procedures that have huge potential for providing better survival and productivity date for nongame birds. The procedures are being tested on Tall Timbers, the Wade Tract, the Jones Ecological Research Center, and GADNR’s River Creek Wildlife Management Area.