The latest news from Sim Place!

This week on a beautiful Monday at Pine Island, John Parke of New Jersey Audubon brought a group out to see the property and hear about the latest on the Northern Bobwhite Restoration Initiative

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John took the group out to Sim Place to meet with researchers Kaili Stevens and Phil Coppola and hear more about the history of the project in addition to recent developments. He briefly discussed how the project came about, as well as the strict criteria Tall Timbers had for possible translocation habitats: it could not be on public land, it had to have at least 1500 acres of quality quail habitat, it could not have quail on it already, and it must not have any stock birds or a stocking program, among other things. “When we found Pine Island, everything lined up perfectly,” John says.

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“Now we’re into the second year of the project, and we can do a lot more,” he says. “We can translocate the wild birds from Georgia and compare the results here to other locations and see how the quail are adapting to new environments out of the south. Here, we’ve been able to show that birds made it through the winter this year by utilizing a lot of cut areas for cover in big winter storms. That was a big test; we worried about them being as hardy, wondered if would they adjust, and they came through with flying colors. The really cool thing about this year was when Phil [Coppola, of the University of Delaware] started telemetry work, he found a bird not collared but paired with one of our collared birds. Which means it was a young bird from last year who made it through! We needed to see that they could make it through winter into nesting season and reproduce. Last year was a great success.”

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kaili at pine island - parke

This year several nests fell victim to predation by pine snakes, but as John says, “that’s not really a doom-and-gloom scenario. This is part of the whole ecosystem. Quail are reproducing, but they’re also part of the food chain. Good habitat work means that sometimes, this is going to happen; it’s all part of the system!” It’s this optimism as well as the joy they take in the entire process that makes working with the staff at New Jersey Audubon such a pleasure, and the group of members who came to visit were just as lovely to speak with. It’s truly gratifying to meet with people who love this area as much as we do and appreciate what everyone is trying to accomplish!

quail hatch

As John said to the group on Monday: “It’s a very interesting situation here, and all this additional data coming out is valuable.”

Post-blizzard quail update!

Last month, the Philadelphia Inquirer posted an update on our beloved quail restoration project!

quail with transmitter parke

From the Inquirer article:

More than 40 quail have survived and thrived – a high number considering the relocation from their native Georgia and adjustment to new and colder surroundings, said New Jersey Audubon.

About 15 nests and 127 eggs were discovered during an August survey, said Audubon officials. Sixty-six eggs hatched in the wild, and by late October, researchers captured and placed a radio transmitter collar on their first born-and-raised New Jersey quail from the group – a 180-gram male who was larger than most of the adults. The birds, on average, weigh less than a half-pound.

Everyone involved with the project is pleased. “We hope that helping to reestablish bobwhite quail back to the South Jersey landscape, more people will recognize the need for more active stewardship and conservation of our lands in order to preserve a diversity of many native species and sustain the ecological services that these habitats also provide us,” says John Parke of New Jersey Audubon.

Quail tracks in snow 1-27-16 at home farm PIC site(PARKE)_2

The big test, however, was the blizzard that had been forecast for the region. (Theron Terhune, game bird program director for Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, said at the time: “Finding nests. . .is exciting, as this confirms that those individuals released are indeed reproducing, giving us great hope going forward. . .I would just feel better knowing in March and April how the birds fared.”)

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Fortunately, John Parke was able to get back to us with great news: NJ Audubon staff and research partners were able to verify that all radio collared Northern Bobwhite are doing well following the blizzard! This is in large part due to the efforts of our forest manager, Bob Williams. Per the NJ Audubon release: “The release site at Pine Island Cranberry has been stewarded through the implementation of a Forest Stewardship Plan, creating patches of young forest habitat suitable for quail and rich in cover and food resources. In addition, the wild birds are known to more quickly adapt and yield offspring that also exhibit innate survival instincts.”

kaili at pine island - parke

“While we still have a bit of winter to go, seeing that the quail have made it through this first significant weather event since their release in NJ, helps to reinforce the message that. . .[w]ith stewardship and management high quality habitat can be created, yielding a diversity of native species and providing the ecological services that these habitats historically and naturally provided,” he says.

Thank you to project researcher Kaili Stevens for the video, and thanks to all the people working so hard to make this all happen!

*All photos courtesy John Parke.