Monthly Archives: April 2014

Turkey

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Photo Credit: Ted Beringer

In 1804 Lewis & Clark camped on the Kansas side of the Missouri River.

They witnessed an abundance of turkeys in Kansas. However turkey populations in Kansas declined and it is believed they were extirpated between 1900 and 1950. In the late 1950s, Rio Grande turkeys entered Kansas from a reintroduced population in Oklahoma. During the 1960s, the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks reintroduced Rio Grande turkeys into Kansas to supplement other reintroductions from Oklahoma and Texas.

According to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism, the Rio Grande subspecies dominates the western two-thirds of the state. Hybrid Rio Grande/Eastern birds are found in north central Kansas. The Eastern subspecies is common in eastern Kansas where numbers have grown tremendously in recent years.

NEW Map Guides Marine Bird Conservation Priorities

The National Marine Bird Association (NMBA) just released a report on marine waterbird priorities for the sovereign waters and lands of the United States. The map will be used to guide continent level resources to areas deemed most important for marine bird conservation as determined by a panel of experts.

“This is ground-breaking work and we’re very excited to get this targeting tool out there,” said one panelist. “It delights us to no end that a map developed for one purpose is proving so useful in many other applications.”

While still in a preliminary draft form, the map can be used for everything. One member of the panel was excited to report that the map was being considered by officials from the National Transportation Department to prioritize repairs of America‘s aging transportation infrastructure.View the map here.

Sign Up Now for National Water Quality Initiative Applications Accepted Until April 18

Farmers and forest landowners in three Kansas watersheds can apply now for help to improve water quality in their watershed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  Funding to install conservation practices that manage nutrients, pathogens, and sediments comes from the agency’s National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI).  NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year, but applications for funding consideration during this fiscal year must be received by April 18, 2014.

            NRCS collaborated with Kansas state agencies, partners, and the NRCS Kansas Technical Committee to select which watersheds would benefit most from additional conservation treatments and decided to offer the program to the same three watersheds as previous years.

            Through this effort, producers in Headwaters Grasshopper Creek in the Delaware River Watershed in southcentral Brown County and small portions of Atchison and Jackson Counties; Town of Munjor-Big Creek in the Smoky Hill River Watershed in southeast Ellis County; andCity of Hesston and City of Canton-West Emma Creek in the Little Arkansas Watershed in portions of Harvey, Marion, and McPherson Counties may apply.

            All three watersheds are identified as impaired, with degraded water quality issues.  Using funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), NRCS will provide financial and technical assistance to producers interested in addressing resource concerns using conservation practices such as field borders, cover crops, waste storage facilities, heavy use area protection, and nutrient management.

            EQIP offers financial and technical assistance to eligible participants to install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land.  In Kansas, socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and beginning farmers and ranchers will receive a higher payment rate for eligible conservation practices applied.

            For additional information specific to NWQI, or to sign an application, stop by yourUSDA Service Center (listed in the telephone book under United States Government or on the internet at www.offices.usda.gov).  More information is also available on the Kansas Web site at www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov.

Human Dimensions Research Helps Burrowing Owl Conservation Efforts

For years the ultimate cause of declining Burrowing Owl populations has remained unknown. Though many factors have been investigated — from pesticide use and lack of prairie dog burrows to habitat fragmentation — none have proved a smoking gun. But human dimensions research may provide an answer for conservation of the species.

Last year, focus groups were conducted throughout the owl’s range. Surprisingly, despite the owls’ natural charisma, participants repeatedly identified poor branding as a major roadblock to public support of Burrowing Owl conservation. “They’re cute and all, but the name reminds me of some kind of fly that digs under your skin,” stated one participant.

In order to maximize brand awareness and reach new audiences, the owls have decided to change their common name to “Hobbit Owl.” MartinUnderhill, a spokesman for the Burrowing Owls, says this change will capitalize on the popularity of the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien and recent movie franchise by Peter Jackson. While representatives from the Tolkien Estate and New Line Cinema have yet to comment, it appears news of the rebranding has already gone viral. The American Ornithologists’ Union records committee will take it under consideration at their next meeting scheduled in August near middle Earth. Whether the owls can parlay this new found fame into conservation on, or under, the ground is yet to be seen.

We’re All Connected Downstream

Jeff Wiedner

American Rivers

It seems logical: small streams lead to rivers and what happens upstream affects those downstream. If they are all connected, then small streams should have the same protections as rivers, right?

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Over the last decade, two Supreme Court rulings have created confusion about which waters are covered by the Clean Water Act. This has made it difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] to enforce the Clean Water Act consistently, which has allowed polluters to get away with dumping toxins into small streams and wetlands without repercussions.

But the good news is the EPA released a draft rule that should help close some of the loopholes polluters use to avoid penalties. [1] It would also reduce some of the uncertainty around existing regulations, helping to ensure the Clean Water Act is enforced consistently for everyone.

Right now, the EPA is accepting comments from the public on the rule. Can you tell the EPA that you support improving protections for our small streams and wetlands?

Approximately 117 million Americans rely at least in part upon small streams and wetlands for their drinking water supply. That’s more than one third of the entire population.

These streams also provide buffers for absorbing and reducing the impacts of flooding, help recharge groundwater supplies, and retain and filter nutrients that can cause water pollution. [2] So it is critical that protections are restored.

Please send your comments today in support of the Administration’s efforts to better protect our clean water and the health of our communities. And as always, thanks for your support!

1 Proposed Rule Marks an Important Step for Clean Waterhttp://www.americanrivers.org/blog/proposed-rule-marks-important-step-clean-water

2. Where Rivers Are Born: The Scientific Imperative for Defending Small Streams and Wetlandshttp://www.americanrivers.org/newsroom/resources/where-rivers-are-born-the-scientific-imperative-for-defending-small-streams-and-wetlands

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)

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Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)

Copyrighted Photo by Mia McPherson http://www.onthewingphotography.com/wings/

The Western meadowlark is the state bird of Kansas. It has a yellow chest with a black “V” below its throat. Meadowlarks are ground nesting birds. They create nests covered with a roof of grass and bark that is woven into the surrounding vegetation. The nest may be connected to a grass tunnel several feet long. Consequently, untimely mowing, hay cutting or burning may destroy eggs and young. Meadowlarks are most abundant in native grasslands. They forage on the ground on low to semi-low vegetation eating mainly insects, beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers and snails plus seeds & berries in winter. They will also consume waste grain on cultivated land. However, habitat has been lost to intense agricultural development. It is still abundant but slowly declining throughout much of its range.  A short video captures its song

at:

http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/Kansas/bird_western_meadowlark.html#western-meadowlark-video

For a kinetic map of the distribution of Western Meadowlarks during the year visit:

http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/occurrence-maps/western-meadowlark

To view more of Mia McPherson meadowlark photos visit http://www.onthewingphotography.com/mmcpherson/gallery/gallery2/main.php/v/avian/icterids/weme/

White Bass (Morone chrysops)

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Photo Credit: North American Native Fishes. http://gallery.nanfa.org/main.php

White Bass are silver-white to pale green with slender darker stripping along their sides. The forward dorsal fin is a spinous ray; the posterior dorsal fin is softer. They have notched tails. White bass begin their spawning runs with lengthening daylight (photoperiods) and water temperatures reaching 50 degrees Fehrenheit. During late April & early May they travel from reservoirs, big lakes & rivers to spawning sites miles up tributaries. The females move upstream first. Previous year’s drought may affect current year’s spawn but early Spring rains improve chances. White Bass like to spawn in moving water where females spin and release their eggs in shallow rivers, creeks, and streams (especially where the water is clear over submerged aquatic plants, logs, gravel, or rocks) for males to fertilize. White Bass eat water fleas, zooplankton, tiny crustaceans, worms & minnows.

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

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Photo by Gary Kramer; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

Bobcats are the only native member of the cat family remaining in Kansas. In eastern Kansas, bobcats can be observed along the immediate perimeter of forests or well-developed shrubby areas that can provide cover when threatened. Their stealthy behavior and reddish fur with black spots make effective camouflage. In central and western Kansas, bobcats are found on rocky hillsides as well as shrubby streamside habitats and ravines. Typically, cottontail rabbits and jackrabbits comprise half their diet. Depending upon geological topography, habitat and available prey, the bobcat’s range can extend from 1.5 to 60 square miles. Dens can include unimproved rock crevices and fallen hollow logs.

 

Black Footed Ferret

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Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2523632192/sizes/l/in/photostream

This photo is on the cover of a book entitled “The Ferret Capture” by

Andrew Licht.

Believed to be extinct in North America until a colony was discovered in Wyoming, they were introduced into Logan County, Kansas, in 2007. Ninety percent of black-footed ferret diet is prairie dogs. They also use prairie dog burrows to raise their young and for shelter. Consequently the historical range of the black-footed ferret was highly correlated with that of the prairie dog. Because of their obligate-dependence on prairie dogs, black-footed ferrets are extremely vulnerable to prairie dog habitat loss. Ferret numbers declined as a result of prairie conversion to agricultural and livestock use. In addition to black-footed ferrets, Ferruginous hawks and Golden eagles in the state were dependent upon prairie dogs as prey also, hence their decline with aggressive attempts to eradicate the prairie dog in much of Kansas. But on the Haverfield/Barnhardt/Blank ranch complex, prairie dogs are being maintained as a basis for successful ferret reintroduction. The existence of prairie dogs also benefits Ferruginous Hawks and Swift Foxes that prey upon them. It is hoped these predators will be able to maintain prairie dog populations at an acceptable level.

Lesser Prairie Chicken

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Photo Credit: http://www.jerodfoster.com/?tag=lesser-prairie-chicken

Lesser prairie-chicken: Copyrighted photo of Jerod Foster http://www.jerodfoster.com/?tag=lesser-prairie-chicken

 

The lesser prairie chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) is a ground nesting bird that lives in open prairies, especially where shinnery oak or sand sagebrush grow. About half of the known lesser prairie chicken population of the southern plains lives in western Kansas. Although this iconic prairie species is native and had previously been common in portions of five states (Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma & Kansas), its population has been steadily declining since the 1800s.

This decline has become more dramatic recently due to a combination of drought, habitat loss caused by human activities, and now the threat of mindless legislation. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recently assigned the lesser prairie-chicken to the “Threatened” category in an attempt to reverse this decline and prevent extinction. It also entered into a partnership with the five states to limit adverse regulatory impacts on landowners and businesses.

The male shown here has yellow-orange neck sacs that inflate with air typical of courtship behavior and a bright yellow eye-comb above the eye.