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FIELD NOTES

Occasional observations and notes from Scott Rowin, Refuge Wildlife Biologist,and Jim Mueller, Land Management Research Demonstration Biologist at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.



Muellers Musings Mueller’s Musings

Jim Mueller was hired in 2010 for a new position as the Land Management Research and Demonstration (LMRD) Biologist. He graduated from Boerne High School, earned degrees from Texas A&M and Texas Tech, worked for 5 years in the Mojave Desert, and taught at Sul Ross State University and Tarleton State University before returning to work and live near the land where he grew up.

Rowin's RamblingsRowin's Ramblings

Scott Rowin was hired in March 2011 as the Wildlife Biologist for the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.  Scott grew up in the Austin area where he graduated from Westwood High School.  He then attended Sul Ross State University and graduated with a degree in Wildlife Management.   Since graduating he has worked as a Wildlife Biologist for over 15 years, most of which was with the US Fish and Wildlife Service where he helped with central Texas endangered species recovery efforts.  Most recently Scott worked for the City of Austin as the Program Manager for the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, a partner to the Refuge.

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***The public can read Chucks posts, but only dues paying members (logged in) can comment.
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  • Monday, October 31, 2011 11:50 AM | Anonymous member

    The title is true, but we are not hunting golden-cheeked warblers – we are hunting to help these birds. Let me explain. Each fall, the refuge holds big game hunts for white-tailed deer, feral hogs, and turkeys. This year the hunts are November 11-13, November 18-20, December 2-4, and December 9-11. Doeskin Ranch Public Use Area will be closed on these dates. These hunts have both a recreational and a biological objective. Our biological goal for white-tailed deer is tied to management of habitat for golden-cheeked warblers. We try to maintain the deer density to less than 1 deer per 20 acres. Low deer density is associated with sustainable warbler habitat because deer browsing of hardwood saplings such as Texas oak (Quercus buckleyi) can prevent the development of high quality warbler habitat. Rooting by feral hogs increases the susceptibility of sites to soil erosion, and their consumption of acorns also may reduce oak tree recruitment.  To help us meet our biological goals, hunters in the general hunts must bag a doe or hog before receiving a permit to take a buck. Because no baiting is allowed, hunters enjoy an outdoor experience of truly matching their wit against nature. I realize that many birders are not hunters, but I hope that everyone can appreciate the importance of managing deer to promote high quality habitat for golden-cheeked warblers. Good luck to the hunters!

  • Thursday, October 20, 2011 11:33 AM | Anonymous

    I keep hoping one day I will get a photo of a mountain lion on our game cameras, but until then this will have to do.

     

  • Friday, October 07, 2011 8:39 AM | Anonymous

    I am pleased to announce that despite the severe drought and extremely high temperatures, we had a successful dove hunt.  During the 4 day hunt, 31 hunters were able to harvest 117 doves.  This was one of the most successful hunts on the Refuge yet.  I am also pleased to announce that we have completed our annual deer surveys in anticipation of our upcoming big game hunt.  As with recent years, our deer densities on many Refuge tracts remain relatively low.  This is good for us since keeping deer densities at low levels is critical for maintaining the long-term sustainability of golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo habitat, but may not be so good for hunters since they will have fewer opportunities to harvest a deer.  We are in it for the birds though and the deer are eating their future habitat.

    I want to extend a BIG thank you to volunteers Dub Lyon and John Harrington for helping with these late-night surveys.  Without the support of our volunteers and the Friends Group we would not be able to keep up with everything and be as successful as we are.

  • Thursday, September 22, 2011 3:45 PM | Anonymous member

               I cannot remember a time when people were so enraptured with watching even a light rain shower. We are experiencing an historic drought, and Balcones Canyonlands NWR is at the epicenter of the affected region. Carl Schwope, the Fire Management Officer at Balcones, has kept weather records on the Rodgers tract of the refuge for the past 16 years. There, he recorded a two-day total of just under a half inch on 16-17 September 2011. That broke a 58-day streak of no rain! It brought the year-to-date total to 6.82 inches and the 12-month total to 8.37 inches. The average annual rainfall (January through December) at that weather station since 1996 is 31.9 inches.

    Rainfall records are available from the National Weather Service for Austin Bergstrom Airport from 1942 and for San Antonio from 1871. The lowest annual rainfall recorded was 9.98 inches at Austin in 1954 and 10.11 inches at San Antonio in 1917. At Austin, rainfall for the entire period from 1954 through 1956 totaled only about 45 inches, and then in 1957 the drought was broken with 55.7 inches in one year. The pattern was the same at San Antonio. Clearly, we are in an historic drought. The worse news is that the long term forecast suggests that La Niña is strengthening, and below normal precipitation is likely through at least next summer.

                    Some trees are dying throughout the Texas Hill Country, streams are drying up, and the area is at high risk of wild fire with each windy weather system that passes through. However, nature is resilient. Although individual plants and animals are stressed and many may die, the populations are expected to rebound when the drought breaks. So, for the short-term, I remain convinced that the refuge remains just that – a refuge that provides a place where native wildlife populations will thrive. However, we are also cognizant that climate is changing. For information regarding how refuges are planning for this change, do an internet search for “FWS Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.” We may not be able to do anything about the weather, but it would be imprudent not to plan for climate change. In the meantime, save your trees with efficient watering, let your lawn turn brown, and enjoy those rain showers when they bless you with their wetness.

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