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Upland Update: Latest Quail Research Project Fieldwork Complete

June 1, 2021

UPLAND UPDATE

Quail Ecology and Management Project Report for April 2021

Provided by Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Oklahoma State University

Researchers recovered two downed transmitters from quail that perished more than three months ago at Packsaddle Wildlife Management Area. Causes of death could not be determined. The fieldwork has ended for the quail component of the project, and the graduate students are analyzing data and writing their theses and dissertations.

For the invertebrate and seed component, data will continue to be collected through spring.

VEGETATION RESEARCH: Researcher John McQuaig has analyzed vegetation survey data from the fire treatment plots established at Sandy Sanders, Packsaddle, Beaver River and Cross Timbers WMAs. The analyses indicated that though the four WMAs were situated across a wide rainfall gradient and had distinctly different vegetation types, their fire-adapted plant communities all recovered relatively quickly from fire.

Season of burn (dormant or growing) showed little effect on plant recovery rates. However, season of burn was confounded by time since fire. These results suggest that managers may want to burn frequently (every 3 to 5 years) to provide all necessary plant successional stages used by quail and other wildlife.

In addition, McQuaig has analyzed wildlife use captured by wildlife cameras on these same treatment plots. The results indicate no strong relationships between wildlife use and time since fire or season of burn. Similar to the vegetation results, season of burn was confounded by time since fire. Further analysis indicated wildlife use was similar on burned and unburned plot treatments, suggesting little to no wildlife response to fire.

However, as the vegetation had returned to a state similar to unburned conditions at 6 months post fire, and wildlife cameras were not deployed until 4 to 7 months post fire, we were unable to capture any differences in wildlife use during the early months of vegetation recovery. Cameras recorded 27 species across sites. A manuscript is in preparation for publication of these analyses.

INVERTEBRATE RESEARCH: Researcher Jacob Reeves spent several weeks at Packsaddle WMA setting up pitfall traps used to collect invertebrates during the May and June fieldwork. Each pitfall site consisted of three pitfall traps, and 30 of these sites were set up across the WMA. This included 18 sites in the same location as seed sampling sites from the winter fieldwork as well as 12 additional sites.

These sites will yield data about the relationship between vegetation variables and invertebrate captures. Reeves also collected more early-emerging invertebrates for additional analyses of nutrient content of potential prey of bobwhite chicks. While cold weather limited invertebrate activity earlier in the month, Reeves eventually was able to collect a large number of invertebrates. In the coming weeks, he will be sorting the invertebrates in preparation for conducting nutrient analyses.

Reeves also conducted another raptor survey in April and observed marked differences in species composition and distribution compared to his January survey. January had relatively few total observations of avian predators (66), consisting of only five species: American kestrels, greater roadrunners, merlins, northern harriers, and red-tailed hawks. In January, northern harriers were most frequently observed (38), followed by American kestrels (28).

In April, 118 total observations were logged. American kestrels were by far the most commonly observed (83), followed by red-tailed hawks (19). In addition to the species observed in January, Swainson’s hawks (12) and great-horned owls (2) were observed in April. Additionally, more avian predators were observed in the 2020 burn areas in April than in January, and a larger proportion of the burn area was covered by 100-meter risk buffers (circles surrounding each avian predator location) in April.

(This project is funded in part by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Federal Aid Project F18AF001-10: Quail Ecology and Management II.)