Upland Update: Quail Project Report, March 2020

April 15, 2020



Quail Ecology and Management Project Report for March 2020

We continued trapping at Sandy Sanders Wildlife Management Area during the first week of March and were able to deploy an additional five transmitters before moving on to Beaver River WMA. We spent the following two weeks trapping at Beaver River before reaching our target of 15 deployed transmitters there. Interestingly, four of the birds were trapped in an area that was burned in a wildfire 10 days earlier.

The remainder of the month was spent trapping at Packsaddle WMA and resulted in two transmitters being deployed.

We recovered six downed transmitters during March, with one recovered from Beaver River and five from Sandy Sanders. All five transmitters recovered from Sandy Sanders were from quail in the same covey. All exhibited signs of raptor predation, and all were found in close proximity to each other in an area where we have previously observed a pair of great horned owls. Location data suggest they may have been predated overnight but the time of predation could not be definitively established. Nevertheless, we strongly suspect they were all taken at night by the resident pair of great horned owls.

The transmitter from Beaver River (see photo) was recovered from a burned area four days after a wildfire swept through part of the WMA on March 7. The presence of the quail’s band at the site confirmed it as a mortality, but the fact that the transmitter had been stationary for some time before the fire established that the bird had died of unrelated causes.

pellet w band

Coincidentally, one of our trapping technicians also came across a raptor pellet at Beaver River that turned out to contain a quail band (see photo). That quail had been banded as a hatch-year female the previous September but was never fitted with a transmitter.

During March, we had 37 active GPS transmitters across the four WMAs, with 15 deployed at Beaver River, two at Cross Timbers, two at Packsaddle, and 18 at Sandy Sanders. All transmitters were of the type with satellite download. In total, we have now collected 45,998 individual locations since the launch of the first transmitter in July 2018.

A second trapping crew with two new technicians, Victoria Roper and Emily Green, was hired at the end of March to boost our capacity for trapping and transmitter deployment. After the new crew has been trained, each crew will trap independently at separate WMAs, essentially doubling our capacity.

The 12 wildlife cameras positioned on research plots at each of the four WMAs continue to record wildlife use at each site. The 12 cameras captured four images of wildlife during March, with three images of white-tailed deer and one image of an unidentified animal. Since the wildlife cameras were put up at the research plots, they have captured 142 photos of wildlife at growing-season burn plots, 86 at control (no burn) plots, and 39 at dormant-season burn plots across the four WMAs.

Preliminary analyses of bird survey data and vegetation data, as well as movement data from the GPS transmitters, continued during March.

For the invertebrate work, Jacob Reeves and the undergraduates finished counting, measuring and identifying invertebrates in the last of the 480 pitfall traps. Jacob continued entering data into a spreadsheet. We also analyzed the protein content of 76 invertebrate morphospecies from seven different orders using three different types of protein assays (Lowry, Bradford, and BCA). The results of the Lowry assay followed well with our predictions for the protein content of the different invertebrate orders. The results of the Lowry assay show that Araneae (spiders) have the highest protein content, followed by Orthopterans (crickets and grasshoppers), Lepidopterans (caterpillars), Coleopterans (beetles), Hymenopterans (ants), and isopods (pill bugs). The Bradford and BCA assays showed much higher variation in protein measures within orders, which we suspect is due to lower reliability of these other assays for accurately measuring protein. We will be conducting amino acid analysis on samples to confirm which of the protein assays is most accurate at measuring the protein content of invertebrates.

(This project is funded in part by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Federal Aid Project F18AF001-10: Quail Ecology and Management II. This is a six-year northern bobwhite research project funded by ODWC to explore management questions to assist ODWC and landowners with bobwhite management. Research is underway at Beaver River, Cross Timbers, Packsaddle, and Sandy Sanders Wildlife Management Areas through 2023.)