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Archive for January, 2016

As a result of steady or improving population numbers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it is proposing continued liberal game bird season lengths and bag limits for the 2016-17 hunting seasons.

Mallard Duck USFWS

Each year, the Service works in partnership with states from four Flyway Councils (Pacific, Central, Mississippi and Atlantic) to establish regulatory frameworks for hunting season lengths, dates and bag limits. States select their individual seasons from within the federal frameworks.

The announcement can be viewed at this link . It is the first following the Service’s implementation of a streamlined process for setting annual migratory game bird hunting seasons and bag limits.

Beginning with the 2016-17 hunting seasons, the previous two-cycle regulatory practice is now compressed into a single, annual process. Biological data from the past year is now used to set hunting season dates and to project appropriate harvest limits for each game species. The change gives biologists more time to analyze bird survey data that inform the Service’s regulatory decisions and gives the public more time to weigh in on proposed rules. The change will also ensure administrative procedures do not delay the opening of state hunting seasons.

The 2016-17 federal frameworks propose duck hunting season lengths of 60 days in both the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways and 74 days in the Central Flyway (with an additional 23 days in the High Plains areas), with a daily bag limit of six ducks in each of those flyways. Proposed duck hunting frameworks for the Pacific Flyway would allow a 107-day season and a seven-bird daily bag limit.

A 16-day special September teal season with a six-bird daily bag limit is proposed to continue to be offered in certain states in the Atlantic, Mississippi and Central flyways.  Proposed dove seasons are 90 days with a 15-bird daily bag limit in the Eastern and Central management units and 60 days with a 15-bird daily limit in the Western Management Unit.  A woodcock season length of 45 days is proposed in both the Eastern and Central management regions, with a three-bird daily bag limit. Proposed regulations for geese also are largely unchanged from 2015-16 seasons and in several cases are very liberal in an attempt to reduce their abundance (e.g., light geese, resident Canada geese).

Although most migratory game bird populations remain abundant, when and where birds will be encountered depends on many factors. Food availability, habitat and weather conditions, and other factors all influence local bird abundance, distribution, behavior and ultimately, hunter success. The Service’s reports on the status and harvest of migratory game bird populations and information about migratory bird management across North America are available on the Migratory Bird homepage.  The new regulatory process resulted from the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, published by the Service in 2013. More details about the new process and its impacts were published earlier this year.

Under the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, about 170 species are game birds. Fewer than 60 species are typically hunted each year, subject to limits based on data from aerial surveys and other monitoring programs. The Service publishes migratory game bird regulations each year in the Federal Register.

SOURCE: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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Sandhill crane USFWS2

More than 14,000 sandhill cranes along with several pairs of whooping cranes spend the winter each year at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur, Ala.

To celebrate these beautiful birds, the Wheeler NWR will hold its annual Festival of the Cranes celebration Jan. 7-10, 2016, offering four days of nature walks, fundraisers, live raptors and special programs. These events bring together experienced birders and those who would like to learn more about birding and other wildlife that call the refuge home.

First Presentation
Presented by the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association and sponsored by Toray, the Festival of the Cranes kicks off at 6 p.m. on Jan. 7 with a Whooping Crane Presentation at Nichols Arbor at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. Lizzie Condon from the International Crane Foundation and Alabama A&M Professor Andrew Cantrell have teamed to offer a hands-on presentation about the tallest flying bird in North America. Tickets are $5 per person and participants are asked to register online at www.hsvbg.org. The Huntsville Botanical Garden will offer a 20% discount on admission to guests who attend the Festival of the Cranes during the festival weekend. For more information, call Soozi Pline at 256.837.4344.

Keg Tapping, Raffle
On Friday, January 8, there will be a Whooping Crane beer launch at 7 p.m. at Old Black Bear Brewing Company. Along with a keg tapping ceremony, a dinner buffet will be served and there will be a raffle. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance at www.oldblackbear.com. Old Black Bear Brewery is located at 212 Main Street in Madison. Whooping Crane Red Ale is a collaboration between the ICF and Old Black Bear Brewery. Half of the proceeds from every can will go to the ICF’s work to protect Whooping Cranes.

During the festival, the enclosed Wheeler NWR Wildlife Observation Building in Decatur will offer views of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, along with Whooping Cranes, ducks, geese, raptors, and maybe a bald eagle. There will be bleachers and spotting scopes available along with volunteers and staff members on hand to answer questions. The observation building is located at the refuge visitor’s center on Alabama 67 just west of I-65 at the Priceville-Decatur exit.

Breakfast, Bird Walk
A Sunrise Breakfast is set for 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 9 in the Visitor Center classroom. Cost is $5 per person. Following breakfast, Refuge Manager Dwight Cooley will lead an early morning birding walk to see cranes and other waterfowl arrive in the fields to begin their day of feeding and loafing. Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes and to bring binoculars and a camera.

Sandhill crane USFWS1

Crane Presentation
ICF Co-Founder George Archibald will be the featured speaker on Saturday. His presentation, set for 10:30 a.m. in the Wheeler NWR visitor’s center auditorium, will offer insight into his conservation efforts over the past 40 years. At 11 a.m., there will be a pizza lunch with proceeds benefitting the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association. A donation of $5 per person will be accepted to benefit future refuge programs.

Presentation, Photography
On Sunday, the festival gets underway at 7 a.m. with a nature walk. ICF Co-Founder George Archibald and his presentation “Romancing the Crane” is set for 9 a.m. Calhoun Community College art instructor, Robyn Locke, will offer an on-location nature photography lesson at the refuge beginning at 1 p.m. Participants are asked to bring cameras (cell phone cameras are acceptable) and learn tips on nature photography. At 2:30 p.m., learn to dance like a crane with ICF Naturalist Amber Wilson. The festival wraps up with an afternoon birding walk on the trails led by Dr. Archibald beginning at 3:30 p.m.

Other Activities
Additional festival activities on Saturday and Sunday include entertainment by President Theodore Roosevelt as portrayed by Joe Wiegand, the film premiere of The Power of One Voice: A 50-Year Perspective on the Life of Rachel Carson sponsored by the Trowelers Garden Club, and presentations by the Auburn University’s Southeastern Raptor Center to teach about birds of prey and offer an up-close look at owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles. Children can take part in special activities in the classroom from 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. on Saturday and 9-11 a.m. on Sunday. Crane art in various media by students from Austin, Decatur and Priceville high schools will be on display at the National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and the Old State Bank.

Festival Hours
Festival hours are 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. All events are free to the public unless otherwise noted.

Wheeler NWR Location
The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is located at 3121 Visitor Center Road in Decatur. From I-65 north or south, take the Alabama 67 exit at Priceville-Decatur and go west toward Decatur about two miles to the entrance. From U.S. 31 in Decatur take Alabama 67 east toward Priceville.

For more information on the Festival of the Cranes, visit www.friendsofwheelerrefuge.org or call Teresa Adams, supervisory ranger for Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, at )256) 350-6639.

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was established on July 7, 1938 by Executive Order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first National Wildlife Refuge placed on a multi-purpose reservoir to provide habitat for wintering and migrating birds. Covering 35,000 acres, it attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl each year and is home to Alabama’s largest wintering duck population. The Refuge also supports the state’s largest concentration of Sandhill Cranes and the endangered Whooping Crane. For more information on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, visitwww.fws.gov/wheeler.

Other Events in the Area
Several other special events are planned in conjunction with Festival of the Cranes leading up to and during the festival weekend. From now until January 9, 2016, the Carnegie Visual Arts Center will host “Oil and Water” by Tim Stevenson. The solo exhibition of over 60 recent works features paintings by Florence, Ala. artist Tim Stevenson. The artist captures the peaceful vistas of the Tennessee Valley, as well as, vivid still life and thoughtful figurative paintings in watercolor and oil.

Through Jan 10, 2016, the public is invited to take part in StoryWalk presented by Decatur Public Library. This is the second year that Wheeler Refuge and the Decatur Public Library have partnered to display the beautiful and poetic story “Song for the Whooping Crane” to visitors while walking along the Atkeson Cypress Trail at the Wheeler Visitor Center. The trail is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Delano Park Conservancy will present a special story time in the park on Jan. 7 at 3:30 p.m. (weather permitting). Participants are asked to meet at the entrance of the Riverwild Children’s Garden on Prospect Drive and spend the afternoon learning about whooping cranes through the story “Saving the Whooping Crane.”

Set for January 8-9, the Alabama Center for the Arts, located at 133 2nd Avenue NE in downtown Decatur, will host the second annual juried Festival of the Cranes Art Exhibit. Featuring selected artwork from students, alumni artists and faculty of Athens State University and Calhoun Community College, the show includes a diverse collection of art forms and media that depicts cranes, birds, waterfowl, ducks, geese, raptors, eagles, falcons, wildlife and nature. The art center will be open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Jan. 8 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 9. At 10 a.m. on Saturday, there will be a “Make and Take” watercolor nature/crane related art project with Kathryn Vaughn, Calhoun art instructor. Space is limited to the first 20 participants.

Also on January 8-9, the Old State Bank will host a special display of Japanese Quilts on special loan from Hitachi City, Ibaraki Prefecture to celebrate the Festival of the Cranes. Hitachi and Birmingham, Alabama have maintained and nurtured an official sister city relationship since 1983, which includes quilting exchange activities. The quilts are made available through the Japan American Society of Alabama (JASA).

SOURCE: Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau

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Several days of unexpected weather hit Alabama in late December, the week of Christmas, including nonstop rain moving north out of the Gulf of Mexico.

Some parts of Alabama got more than 10 inches of rain in a day. Most of the state was hammered, creating extensive flooding from north to south. Tennessee Valley Authority tweeted that it was pushing more than 1.8 gallons of water per second through Guntersville Dam on the Tennessee River.

Along the Alabama River in Montgomery, the level rose well above flood stage. The south side of the river is a high bluff, protecting Montgomery from flooding, but the north side is quite low. The river escapes its banks periodically in, primarily agricultural fields and undeveloped areas.

Check out this amazing video of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail course at Capitol Hill. The course is located in Prattville, just north of Montgomery, close enough to the Alabama River to see the incredible footage above. It was filmed by Elevated Perceptions.

Capitol Hill will play host to the LPGA Tour’s Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic on May 5-8, 2016. The tournament is one of three professional golf tournaments in Alabama this year, including the PGA Tour stop in Opelika in July and the PGA Champions Tour major at Greystone Golf Club in Birmingham in May.

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