We propose financial support for a reconnaissance study that is critical to developing a longer term in-depth investigation of factors that influence pheasant and turkey populations in the Central Valley, California. This study will include field operations, data collection, and analytical approaches aimed at answering basic questions regarding upland game bird populations. On-the-ground monitoring will be carried out during the spring and summer seasons with less frequent monitoring during fall and winter. Details of the monitoring and analyses are listed below. The objective of this proposal is to develop collaboration between CDFW, USGS and other partners to carry out a pilot effort for field monitoring and research aimed at guiding effective management of pheasant and turkey populations in California.
The primary study objectives include:
- Investigate the nesting success of both Pheasants and Turkeys using video-monitoring.
- Investigate the brood success of both Pheasants and Turkeys and assess field methodology for capturing marking and monitoring individual pheasants using VHF telemetry.
- Evaluate methodologies for estimation of population vital rates (nest, brood, juvenile, and adult survival) and identify potential influential factors on those vital rates.
- Identify movement patterns using GPS technology.
- Identify and analyze food habits for both pheasants and turkeys during the brood rearing period.
- Conduct preliminary invertebrate availability studies in locations where mosquito abatement, seasonal flooding and other management practices differ.
- Evaluate pheasant and turkey use of intensively managed habitats for brood rearing.
- Quantify territorial turkey behavior and interactions between turkey and pheasant using audio playbacks of crowing pheasant.
Region: Inland Deserts (Region 6)
This project consists of installing a solar well to access artesian water within 9-10 feet of surface elevation at Camp Cady Wildlife Area. The solar well will be used to establish a small game guzzler and to establish riparian and upland habitats using drip irrigation which will provide nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat as much as a mile away from the well site.
The establishment of this solar well project will allow for the development of a permanent water source for upland game species, as well as provide for additional habitat, forage, water, and more hunting opportunities as much as a mile away from the well site. In addition, the well may be used to help establish a nursery for the development of cottonwoods and willows to revegetate the Mojave River. Establishment of new riparian vegetation will allow for the formation of additional understory which will provide for new habitat, forage, and hunting opportunities.
Region: Inland Deserts (Region 6)
This project consists of planting approximately 80 acres of upland food plots on public lands at the CDFW Camp Cady Wildlife Area. This project will help maintain and increase upland wildlife communities at Camp Cady by providing essential food for upland game species. Camp Cady Wildlife Area will contract to have the food plots planted, irrigated, and manipulated. These plantings will facilitate an increased population of upland species, quantity and quality of habitat, and increase and provide additional special hunt opportunities for junior and family pheasant hunts at the Wildlife Area. The past success of this program has been proven by hunter and Departmental surveys and its continued success relies on funding from the Department of Fish and Wildlife and Quail Forever.
The Eldorado National Forest has engaged in a 10-year Stewardship Agreement with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) to help implement and administer the Cleveland-Icehouse Forest Health Project. The Eldorado National Forest is one of the most popular forests for wild turkey hunters in California, and the Cleveland-Icehouse Forest Health Project will enhance upland game bird habitat on 481 acres of public hunting land within that landscape. The NWTF will oversee contractor administration, treatment design, implementation, and project financing in conjunction with the project lead from the USDA Forest Service. Implementation of the project will continue to grow as funds are acquired throughout the life of the agreement.
The Cleveland-Icehouse Forest Health Project is a 2,976 acre forest thinning project, broken up into 90 separate units. The individual units will be commercially thinned with he objective of decreasing stand densities to attain a residual basal area that would vary from approximately 60 to 100 ft2/ acre. Some units will be hand thinned while others will treated with mechanical mastication, focused on increasing residual tree health, stand heterogeneity, and rearranging fuels to decrease fuel ladders and canopy continuity.
The award of a 2017-18 Upland Game Bird Account Grant to this project will allow for the treatment of 50 additional acres through mechanical mastication.
Benefits will include the increased production of shrubs, along with annual grasses and forbs, which are all important spring and summer food resources for wild turkeys and mountain quail. The growth of herbaceous plants that will occur post-treatment will create beneficial nesting cover for wild turkeys, who prefer lateral cover up to 1 meter in height. Stand diversity will increase through the reduction of ponderosa pine encroachment on hardwood species, which will also maintain acorn production.
Once treated, these stands will be much more resilient to landscape level disturbance events, such as catastrophic wildfire, and large scale insect and disease infestation. The project area will be able to be managed in the future through prescribed fire, where low-severity fire conditions will help to set back overgrown understory succession, and enhance the quality of forage for upland game birds.
Region: Inland Deserts (Region 6)
Gamebird population surveys are used to assess population size, trends, and distribution and to provide management agencies with critical information to manage populations and develop hunting regulations. Survey methods to obtain information about populations vary from visual counts of individuals, auditory or call-counts, hunter harvest surveys, and advanced methods including radio-telemetry or banding studies. Such surveys may be focused on individual species or whole taxa and are implemented at local, regional, or continental scales. Data generated during these surveys are then analyzed using a similarly variable set of statistical analyses to infer population demographic rates, population age-structure, or develop indices to or estimates of abundance.
We propose to develop a monitoring strategy and implementation plan for gamebird species of the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts of California. We will limit the scope of our survey development to quail and dove species residing in the Sonoran, Colorado, and Mohave Deserts, the Great Basin and other arid highland ecosystems where large scale habitat monitoring programs (AIM and NRI) are operational. This project will consist of three objectives:
- Conduct a literature review detailing pros and cons and suitability of survey methods used to investigate population abundance, trends, and distribution of quail and dove species.
- Develop and conduct pilot investigation of a survey protocol for quail and dove that integrates and coordinates with the large scale habitat monitoring programs administered by the BLM (AIM) and NRCS (NRI).
- Develop methods to integrate survey analysis protocol with local, regional, and continental bird survey programs (e.g., Mourning Dove Call-Count Survey, Breeding Bird Survey, Christmas Bird Count). We intend to utilize the AIM pilot program and the data points BLM established as part of the Riverside East, Solar Energy Zone (SEZ) Project. The one hundred AIM points put on the ground by BLM were established to try and explore the utility of the program in analyzing the 147,000 acres solar development in eastern Riverside Co. We plan to use at least ten of these sites as reference points to develop the proposed protocols for our designated gamebirds.
Region: North Central (Region 2)
Pheasant harvest at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area has plummeted from a high of 2,752 birds in 1983 to a mere 250 birds in 2010, which is far below the long term average of 1,160 birds. From 2003 to 2010, Dove hunter numbers have ranged from about 200 to nearly 900 hunters, but have recently fallen well below the long term average of 490 hunters. In 2010, only 205 people hunted doves. We hope to reverse these extremely negative trends by improving habitat conditions throughout the wildlife area.
Field 40 at Gray Lodge currently provides relatively poor quality nesting and foraging habitat for pheasants, doves, turkeys, quail and other wildlife. The vegetative complex is dominated by annual plants that provide little structure or food value during critical nesting and over wintering periods.Existing irrigation capabilities do not exist.
This project will develop and implement a comprehensive habitat enhancement plan for roughly 50 acres. A topographic and existing conditions survey will be completed to gather information necessary to properly grade the field and construct an irrigation system that will provide managers full control over independently managed units. The field will be divided into thirds using the diversified upland habitat unit (DUHU) concept that is currently being implemented throughout the wildlife area. A perennial grass mix will be planted over roughly 1/3 of the acreage, while the remaining 2/3 of the acreage will be planted to food plots. The field will be designed so that crop types can be rotated on an annual or semi-annual basis. Areas planted to perennial grass will remain productive for 3-5 years before it’s necessary to set back succession.Expected benefits are improved nesting, foraging, and over wintering habitat, which should result in higher pheasant, turkey, dove, and quail populations and ultimately more hunter opportunity.
Region: Bay Delta (Region 3)
This project will improve upland nesting and foraging habitat for pheasants and other wildlife in a field that is currently providing poor quality habitat and hunting opportunity. Field 10 at Grizzly Island Wildlife Area has unrealized potential for providing quality nesting and foraging habitat for pheasants as well as other ground nesting birds. CWA and GIWA staff completed a small Upland Game Bird grant-funded project in Field 10 earlier this year intended to improve upland habitat quality. In general, the project was a success. However, during implementation of the project, several issues were discovered which, along with an extremely dry winter, diminished the overall benefit. We will adapt our strategy with future management, which will increase the value of the proposed project.
This proposal will enhance approximately 60 acres of upland nesting and foraging habitat within field 10. The entire project area will be rid of noxious weeds with herbicide before the ground is disturbed. After the herbicide application has taken effect, the area will be burned, mowed and heavily disked. Once the fields are clean of duff, a mosaic of nesting cover (annual grasses, perennial grasses and forbs) and forage (cereal-grains and legumes) will be planted throughout the area. The actual layout and planting design will be determined at the time of planting by CDFW staff with assistance from CWA staff. CDFW staff will provide equipment and labor to apply the herbicide. The field preparation and seed planting will be contracted.
Region: Bay Delta (Region 3)
Fields 13 and 14 of Grizzly Island Wildlife Area (GIWA) encompass approximately 1,500 acres of upland habitat that is divided into a series of sub-fields by a system of conveyance ditches. Field 14 is approximately 950 acres and Field 13 is approximately 550 acres. These fields support a large diversity of ground nesting birds, including pheasants and waterfowl. They are also very popular for public pheasant hunters however, the current habitat conditions in these fields are poor due to the dominance of noxious weeds and invasive annual grasses.
In this project, herbicides will be used to control all non-desirable plants before the ground is disturbed. DFW and CWA staff will provide equipment and labor to apply the herbicide. After the herbicide application has taken effect, the area will be mowed, plowed and/or disced. Observations of planting efforts in adjacent fields suggest there may be significant local variability in soil fertility. Soil samples will be collected, analyzed and used to determine if any fertilization is needed.
Once the fields are clean, a seed mix designed to provide quality spring nesting cover and fall forage (grains, annual grasses, perennial grasses and forbs) will be planted. If needed, fertilizer will be applied as recommended by a local agricultural advisor. The enhanced upland habitat should support a higher density of nesting pheasants and provide better brood rearing conditions which will increase natural pheasant recruitment. The increase in pheasant recruitment should subsequently improve hunting success in the project area and nearby fields.
Region: Central (Region 4)
This project will inspect and maintain existing gallinaceous guzzlers throughout Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties on public lands. Inspection will consist of site inspection, photographing the condition, and completing a report form to be input into the Central Region guzzler database. Repairs will be completed as required to catch and hold water. Inspection and repairs will be completed with the help of Regional staff and volunteers. We will target 40 guzzlers to be inspected and maintained.
This work will benefit quail, chukar and other wildlife by maintaining and repairing existing guzzlers to provide a permanent water source in extremely arid areas within Region 4 where water is a limiting resource.
Region: Northern, North Central and Bay Delta (Regions 1-3)
Historically, the Sooty Grouse (Dendragapus f. fuliginosus) occurred along California’s Coast Ranges as far south as the Russian River in central Sonoma County. The species’ distribution and status have not been duly assessed south of Humboldt and Trinity counties. It is important to inventory breeding sites of the Sooty Grouse because, where the species occurs at low density, it breeds communally, gathering year after year at the same sites. These are core habitats, and identifying them is essential for managing local populations of Sooty Grouse.
Sooty Grouse populations in California's northern Coast Ranges are a southern peninsular extension of the species’ continental range and this species appears to be vulnerable to extirpation in peninsular habitats, perhaps because habitat conditions become increasingly marginal toward the tip of the peninsula
In this project, Game Bird Research Group proposes to:
- Attain accurate coordinate locations for a sample of territorial male Sooty Grouse throughout Mendocino, Glenn, Lake, and Sonoma counties.
- Create a habitat suitability model that predicts the locations of additional breeding sites throughout the region.
Region: South Coast (Region 5)
Southern California has experienced a severe drought over the past three years that has resulted in a recent declaration by the Governor of an emergency state-wide water shortage. Quail populations within the project area have been in steady decline over the past 30 years and have reached record lows during the recent period of extended drought. Artificial wildlife watering devices are essential to maintaining quail reproduction in this semiarid environment, particularly during periods of extended drought.
CDFW initiated a wildlife guzzler construction program, completing many projects throughout California during the 1950’s through the 1970’s however, during the past 40 years or more, CDFW, USFS and others have failed to maintain the guzzlers installed in the Los Angeles District for various reasons, including lack of funding and lost records. Santa Clarita Chapter of Valley Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation (SCVQUWF) has recently undertaken a volunteer project to locate and assess all of the existing DFW guzzlers and has already located over 20 of the DFW guzzler units in the Los Angeles District, all of which are in need of repair.
The primary products of the project are:
- Reestablish 10 DFW wildlife guzzlers to once again provide necessary water sources for quail and other upland game animals.
- Install game cameras on selected guzzlers during nesting season to monitor the effectiveness of the project. Manual bird counts by volunteer observation are also planned.
- Provide a long-term study basis for documenting the positive effect of artificial water sources and usage of free-standing water sources by wildlife as recommended by Simpson, et. al. of CDFW Wildlife Investigations Laboratory (2011, California Fish and Game 97(4):190-209)
- Provide important “leaping points” on remote divides between known natural watering holes in order to help support biodiversity in the face of climate change.
- To study the effectiveness of providing artificial water sources for upland game animals within areas of public lands designated for off-highway vehicular recreational use (Selected Guzzler Nos. 25, 27, 30, and 31 will provide this unique opportunity)
Region: North Central (Region 2)
The current historic drought and ongoing water shortage issues have resulted in unprecedented fallowing of previously intensively farmed lands in the name of water conservation. Couple this landscape change with a human population that has effectively doubled since the last big drought period in the mid to late 1970’s, and water shortages have become the new reality.
To date there has been little work and research into the types of vegetation which could provide optimum habitat for upland species in this changing landscape of water shortage and much of the existing work has centered on providing nesting habitat for ducks. While beneficial for nesting ducks, many of these practices have had reduced value for upland species and some of the current direction toward grass planting may actually be a detriment to pheasants as chicks which find great difficulty in foraging in a grass under-story as opposed to more of a forb related structure. Grasses also fail to provide the microclimate that produces moisture and associated insect populations.
This project will establish a sixty-six acre demonstration site to test the viability of certain plant species as well as the wildlife response over a three year period. Plantings include mixes of forbs, with some limited grasses in various combinations to simulate the various season scenarios which might be experienced under water transfer or idling programs.
Region: Central (Region 4)
Drought and increased wildfire severity have altered the structure, composition, and distribution of chaparral habitats in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, relative to pre-fire suppression conditions. These trends will likely continue in the future due to climate change, yet their impact on Mountain Quail (Oreortyx pictus) is essentially unknown. Assessment of Mountain Quail abundance and critical habitat is hindered by the lack of practical and efficient methods for counting birds and measuring dense, frequently impenetrable, chaparral vegetation. The Game Bird Research Group proposes to quantify the temporal patterns of Mountain Quail vocalizations that underpin abundance estimates derived from call counts.
Regions: Central, South Coast and Inland Deserts (Regions 4-6)
Carrying capacity for upland game species and other wildlife is heavily dependent upon water in arid environments. The objective of this effort is to systematically visit developed water sites throughout the southern Regions of the state to insure that they are functioning in an optimum fashion. While many of these sites are entirely man-made many are often seep and spring improvements.
A dedicated group of volunteers uses their own equipment, time and whatever financial resources they can raise, to visit desert and forest watering sites on most weekends in an effort to improve conditions for wildlife by maintaining these sites. The purpose of this grant is to help these individual with materials to help them do this important work and will ensure future generations will be able to enjoy enhanced hunting opportunities.
This project requests funds for materials while private parties and non-profits provide the fuel, vehicles and manpower to restore and in some cases replace existing watering structures in Department of Fish and Wildlife Regions: 4, 5, and 6.