State News

March 17, 2013

DNR officials look for rare sparrow

STERLING. (AP) — For a group of experienced Department of Natural Resources biologists and birding volunteers, netting the tiny Henslow’s Sparrow is far from an exact science.

They were reminded of that recently during an exercise to capture, band and release the birds.

Biologist Todd Schneider of the state’s Nongame Conservation Section walked ahead of Rob Hicks, a senior forester for Plum Creek Timber Co. Plum Creek Timber Co. and freelance biologist Chris Depkin, who followed behind, dragging a nearly 100-foot-long rope across the ground. The goal was to flush the rare migrating sparrows from the high grasses in Paulk’s Pasture Wildlife Management Area in Sterling.

Within the first few minutes, a bird frantically emerged from the tall grass, flew roughly 100 yards and suddenly dipped back to the ground.

“That’s a Henslow’s,” Schneider announced to the researchers and volunteers.

The bird gets its name from John Stevens Henslow, a 19th century botanist, minister and a good friend of John Audubon, the pioneering naturalist of the 1800s.

With the bird spotted, state biologist Tim Keyes sprang into action, quickly setting up a badminton-type net while Schneider, Hicks and three volunteers circled around to behind where the bird landed, in hopes of flushing it toward the net.

With a cacophony of whooping, clapping and stomping that sounded like an ancient tribal ritual, the group walked through the thicket, making the bird take to the air and fly into the net.

The work was part of an effort by the DNR to get bands around the ankles of as many Henslow’s Sparrows as possible before they begin their spring migration back to their nesting grounds in Midwest grasslands. In the past three years, the research team has been able to band about 190 birds.

Schneider wants to learn more about the bird’s behavior when it winters in the grassy areas of pine flatwoods and pitcher plant bogs in southeast Georgia’s coastal plain.

“We really don’t know much about what the Henslow’s do here in Georgia,” Schneider said.

The species is considered of high conservation concern, because of its small population and greatly reduced habitat, Schneider said.

He says some estimates put its numbers at a total of 85,000 birds, a small number for a small songbird.

“Over the past several decades, this species has declined precipitously, likely due to habitat loss on its breeding and wintering grounds,” Schneider said.

The attempt to band as many birds as possible will give researchers an idea of where they live during winter and roughly how many birds make the southern migration.

Research similar to that at Paulk’s Pasture is also being conducted in the Townsend Wildlife Management Area, near Jesup, and the Moody Forest Wildlife Management Area, near Baxley.

The success of the work at Paulk’s Pasture has been, in part, due to Hicks and the Plum Creek Timber Co., which cleared more than 50 acres of prime pine timber land to expand the sparrow’s winter habitat.

Plum Creek works with the state through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative of the American Forest and Paper Association.

 

1
Text Only
State News
  • One charged in death of Dalton woman, another sought

    A Dalton woman found dead in Calhoun earlier this month is believed to have died of a drug overdose after two Calhoun residents abandoned her in a car behind the VFW on East Line Street, Lt. Tony Pyle with the Calhoun Police Department said Wednesday afternoon.

    June 18, 2014

  • Guard shot at FedEx center to undergo 14th surgery

    A security guard critically wounded when a gunman went on a rampage at a FedEx facility is scheduled to undergo his 14th operation Tuesday.

    May 27, 2014

  • Arson ruled out as cause of chemical plant fire

    Police say investigators have been able to rule out arson or foul play as the cause of a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles.

    May 27, 2014

  • Teen tied to shopping cart drowns in lake

    Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials say a teen has died after being tied to a shopping cart and pushed into Lake Allatoona.

    May 25, 2014

  • Underground tattoo artists frustrate officials

    The work of tattoo artists whose living rooms double as body art studios might come cheap, but experts say the unsterile -- and illegal -- work environments could leave clients in pain long after the initial sting of the needle subsides.

    May 25, 2014

  • No runoff lets Republicans focus on Rep. Barrow

    While Georgia Republicans have to wait until July to settle runoff races for the U.S. Senate and three open House seats, one of the biggest GOP victories in the primary elections last week went to Augusta businessman Rick W. Allen.

    May 25, 2014

  • Audit probes juvenile justice turnover rate

    A state audit cites low pay, long hours and management concerns as reasons for a relatively high turnover rate at the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.

    May 25, 2014

  • Atlanta schools ex-tech director to be sentenced

    After his relationship with the superintendent of Atlanta’s school system soured, a former technology director for the district set up a kickback scheme to pad his pockets before he left his job, according to court documents.

    May 24, 2014

  • Georgia veteran, 92, honored at surprise ceremony

    Family and friends surprised a 92-year-old World War II veteran from Georgia on Memorial Day by honoring him and presenting him with the World War II Victory Medal.

    May 24, 2014

  • Police: Massive chemical plant fire extinguished

    Authorities say a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles has been extinguished.

    May 24, 2014