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12-16-2002, 12:41 AM
New habitat caters to quail

November 16, 2002

Robert Pavey, Augusta Chronicle

Wild quail are rare these days, mainly because of agricultural practices that inhibit the survival of the South's signature bird.

This fall, the Corps of Engineers and Quail Unlimited are opening a new Quail Habitat Demonstration Area - 375 acres of federal lands cultivated explicitly for the comfort of Mr. Bobwhite.

"There's no quail hunting allowed, but you can train your dogs on wild birds," said Corps ranger David Williamson. "There aren't many places you can do that."

The demonstration area is on the Georgia side of Thurmond Dam on the Savannah River side of the highway. A parking area is available, and a marquee and bulletin board were installed last week with information.

The project is a joint venture between the Corps and Quail Unlimited and its Augusta chapter.

http://augustachronicle.com/images/headlines/111702/QUAIL_UNLIMITED_PLANTLR.jpg
David Williamson of the Corps of Engineers looks at a blend of planted bicolor lespedeza amid native plants attractive to quail. The Corps and Quail Unlimited created the Quail Habitat Demonstration Area to give the Southıs signature bird a place to thrive. ROB PAVEY/STAFF


The habitat manipulation includes thinning timber, selected plantings of quail-friendly plants such as bicolor lespedeza and efforts to promote native vegetation, such as ragweed and partridge peas, to encourage quail.

Biologists conducted a traditional "whistling cock" survey last spring, and documented good numbers of male birds - an indicator quail have found and are thriving in the area, Williamson said.

Although no quail hunting is allowed, much of the land included in the demonstration area is open to deer hunting and other activities, Williamson said.

HUNTER KILLED IN FALL: A 54-year-old Dawson, Ga., man who died after falling from his tree stand is the first fatality of the 2002-03 deer season, according to Georgia's Department of Natural Resources.

Milton W. Moore was found dead Oct. 19 at the base of a tree in Clay County in which he had hung a climbing stand.

Authorities believe he climbed about 15 feet, removed the cable holding the seat to adjust it, and failed to secure the pin holding the cable before climbing into the stand, which collapsed.

The foot portion of the stand remained in the tree. Moore was not wearing a safety harness.

DNR has investigated 18 accidents so far this year, including the fatality. Eleven involved tree stands, and five involved hunters who accidentally shot themselves. One bowhunter was wounded by a trespasser illegally hunting with a firearm.

CLOSING DEBATED: Hunters and anglers gave an Aiken County Council subcommittee an earful last week in efforts to prevent the Audubon Society from closing 1.1 miles of Silver Bluff Road near Jackson, S.C.

The society, which manages the Silver Bluff environmental learning center and preserve, wants the public road closed and gated to protect its property and buildings, and to control traffic in the area.

However, residents such as John Key offered a different perspective during an hourlong discussion before County Council's development subcommittee.

"This is one of the oldest, if not the oldest road, in South Carolina," he said. "If they close that part, it's just a matter of time before they close the rest of the road, the boat landing and everything else."

Citizens who addressed the subcommittee provided signatures from 544 residents opposed to the closure, Key said, adding that closure of the road also makes it more difficult to access a popular boat landing.

Audubon sanctuary manager Dan Connelly has said one end of the section to be closed would be open during daylight hours, but a closed gate at the other end would prevent through traffic.

Although Aiken County Council already adopted a resolution supporting the Audubon Society's request, its members were unaware of the depth of concerns among residents, said Rick Osbon, a subcommittee member.

"We were glad to have the opportunity to hear their perspective," Osbon said. The subcommittee's report will be sent to full council, which meets Tuesday, in case anyone wants to reconsider the resolution.

Although County Council can take a position on the closing, a final decision requires ratification by a circuit judge, Osbon said.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119 or rpavey@augustachronicle.com.