Thursday, May 19, 2011

Atlanta Peregrine Nest Produces Four High-flying Falcons

Four new falcons will soon be eligible for drafting, riding the air currents that swirl around their high-rise home in downtown Atlanta.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials recently examined and banded the four young peregrine falcons in a nest outside the offices of McKenna, Long & Aldridge, 51 floors up in the SunTrust Plaza building.

Law firm chairman Jeff Haidet said the same two falcons have been nesting on the balcony for five years. The number of young this spring only increased his excitement and pride.

“This is the first year that the pair has produced four babies … and it’s always a special treat to observe their transition from hatching to flying,” Haidet said.

Two or three falcons hatched each of the previous years. Before this pair of parents, peregrines fledged foursomes outside the firm in 1999, 2000 and 2005. The 2011 nestlings will be flying within two weeks.

Peregrines are possibly the world’s fastest animal, diving at more than 200 mph to nab pigeons, ducks and other birds in mid-air. The nest at SunTrust Plaza is one of only two confirmed in Georgia. The other is in midtown Atlanta.

Jim Ozier, a program manager with DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, occasionally hears reports that suggest there are other peregrine nests in metro Atlanta. He encouraged residents who see the falcons in pairs or possibly tending a nest in the spring to notify his office, (478) 994-1438 in Forsyth.

Peregrines were removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species because of a successful population recovery effort, but Georgia still lists the birds as rare. Historically, the only known nest in the state was at Cloudland Canyon in the early 1940s. Peregrines were apparently absent for several years during and after the DDT era.

DNR normally offers a web camera view of the nest at McKenna, Long & Aldridge, thanks to the law firm and a grant from The Garden Club of Georgia. The equipment needs upgrading, and the hope is to re-establish the behind-the-scenes look at Georgia’s highest-flying falcons in 2012.

This year’s clutch hatched in mid-April. The nestlings leave the nest at about 5 weeks old. Life can be hard for them in metro Atlanta. Hazards vary from traffic to large windows. A peregrine hatched at the firm last year was found days later suffering from trichomoniasis, a parasitic disease of young birds. The falcon was rehabilitated by Kathryn Dudeck of the Chattahoochee Nature Center and released.

Georgians can conserve endangered and other nongame wildlife such as peregrines through buying a bald eagle or ruby-throated hummingbird license plate, or donating directly to the Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. Wildlife plate sales and direct contributions provide vital support for the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state general funds for its mission to conserve wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats.

Visit www.georgiawildlife.com for more information, or call Nongame Conservation offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218).

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Georgia's Rare Species Profiled in New Online Accounts

Quick: Name the turtle found in Georgia that lures prey using part of its tongue.

Not sure?

How about the Georgia mussel that grows inch-long spines, a blue crayfish known mostly from the Chatsworth area, the shorebird that sports a long orange bill, an endangered plant beleaguered by butterflies or the minnow best identified by its lips?

Answers to these and other questions about Georgia’s rare wildlife are found in a new lineup of species profiles at www.georgiawildlife.com. The 403 updated and expanded online accounts detail the identification, habitat use, distribution, ecology and conservation of Georgia’s protected species, plus selected rare species considered at risk but not officially protected.

Brett Albanese, a project leader, said the goal is providing a reliable and current source on rare animals and plants that can used by all, from university scientists to middle school students and from biological consultants to landowners and managers. The profiles also feature information from important references such as the Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Georgia by Linda Chafin of the State Botanical Garden.

“We tried to use the best experts to author the profiles,” said Albanese, a senior aquatic zoologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section.

The hope is that the accounts spur feedback that adds to the body of information about each species. Profiles list when they were written or last updated. Readers can report omissions and errors by email.

The profiles stem from the State Wildlife Action Plan, a strategy guiding the DNR and its partners in conserving Georgia’s biological diversity. Accounts cover basics such as descriptions and life history, as well as threats, management recommendations and conservation status of the species in Georgia. Photographs and some range maps are included. Guides and glossaries explain structures used in species identification and other technical terms.

Years in the making, the profiles reflect “a vision of protecting the natural environment in Georgia,” said Greg Krakow, a project leader and natural resources biologist involved in the effort since its start.

Nongame Conservation Section Assistant Chief Jon Ambrose noted that conservation of many of the species depends on voluntary efforts by private landowners. Ambrose said the accounts offer a new information tool that will hopefully lead to “more occurrences of the species and habitats in better condition because of better management.”

Oh, and about that nimble-tongued turtle, it’s the alligator snapping turtle. The other answers: Altamaha spinymussel, Conasauga blue burrower, American oystercatcher, Canby’s dropwort and fatlips minnow.

The profiles are found at www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation (click “Rare Species Profiles”). For more on the Wildlife Action Plan, see www.georgiawildlife.com/conservation/wildlife-action-plan.

Help conserve endangered and other nongame wildlife through buying a bald eagle or ruby-throated hummingbird license plate, or donating directly to the Georgia Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. Wildlife plate sales and direct contributions provide vital support for the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state general funds for its mission to conserve wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats.

Visit www.georgiawildlife.com for more information, or call Nongame Conservation offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218).

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Bald Eagle Nesting Pair Survives Tornado-Like Storms & Hatches First Of Three Eggs

(BUSINESS WIRE)--While tending to their nesting duties, non-releasable Bald Eagles "Franklin" and "Independence", cared for by the non-profit American Eagle Foundation (www.eagles.org), recently survived severe storms that passed through the East Tennessee area.

“During the high winds and intense thunder showers, I intently watched the eagle nest day and night from a video camera available over the Internet”

"During the high winds and intense thunder showers, I intently watched the eagle nest day and night from a video camera available over the Internet," said AEF President Al Cecere. "It always amazes me how the parent birds faithfully cover the eggs and young with their body and wings during severe weather, even when chunks of hail are pounding on their backs."

The first of three eggs laid in March, which both parents have been diligently incubating and shielding from inclement weather over the past several weeks, hatched on the day of the Royal Wedding (April 29). The second egg and third eggs hatched May 5 and 6 respectively.

The most intimate nesting activities of these majestic birds are under a microscope lately, as the conservation group has established a "live" Eagle Nest Cam which can be viewed from their www.eagles.org website (or www.ustream.tv/americaneaglefoundation).

At about 5 or 6 weeks of age, all the eaglets that hatch in the nest will be moved to an artificial nesting tower located on Tennessee’s Douglas Lake. They will be released into the wild at 13 weeks of age after they've grown to full size.

"We invite anyone who loves animals, birds, nature and America to drop by our website (www.eagles.org) to watch and enjoy these wonderful birds," said Cecere. "We're even open to suggestions from our viewers regarding any possible names for the babies."

Both parent birds suffered permanent disabilities to one wing due to gunshot wounds. The American Eagle Foundation is headquartered at its United States Eagle Center located at Dolly Parton's family entertainment park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

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