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May 17, 2017 Comments Off on Quail habitat is being restored Latest, Nature

Quail habitat is being restored

Bird songs, not cannon fire, ring these days at Pea Ridge National Military park, more than 150 years after the Battle of Pea Ridge during the Civil War.

Visitors may hear the soothing whistle of bobwhite quail more frequently, thanks to a habitat project to bring back the bird.

See park quail project

A field day is set for Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Pea Ridge National Military Park to showcase quail habitat restoration work. The park is six miles east of Pea Ridge on U.S. Hwy. 62.

Activities begin with a bird dog demonstration at 9 a.m. on private land along Patton Road. Look for signs to the event. Five stations will be set up in the park staffed by biologists and quail experts to show visitors the habitat work. Guest speakers will give quail-related talks.

Benton County Quail will serve free hamburgers and hot dogs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. All activities are free. The entrance fee into the park will be waived on Saturday.

Information: 479-451-8122.

— Staff report

Thousands of cedar trees have been removed. Native grasses and plants beneficial to wildlife now grow in their place. One purpose is to restore the park to when the Battle of Pea Ridge was fought March 7-8, 1862. Another is to boost quail numbers in the park and create better habitat for the bobwhite and all wildlife.

It’s working. Staff listen for quail at various sites around the 4,300-acre national park, said Nolan Moore, resources chief.

“In 2008, we heard one bird whistling on 100 plots. In 2012, we heard 12 birds on eight plots,” Moore noted during a tour of the park.

Visitors may hear quail all year, but spring is the prime season, Moore advised. A quail’s “bob bob WHITE” whistle is heard this time of year. Sometimes only the last two syllables tickle the ears. The first is so quiet.

Quail can be heard by driving the park’s seven-mile tour road with windows down. Biking the route is better. The best is to walk trails, which meander through forests and meadows.

“A hiker might see quail running across the trail,” Moore said.

The quail effort strengthened when the park signed a formal partnership with Benton County Quail, a conservation organization. Tanner Bedwell with Benton County Quail said the partnership allows the group to give money, material and labor to the park for quail restoration. Before the partnership, park staff could not legally ask for help from the group, Moore added.

Benton County Quail donated $4,500 to the effort in April. Moore said the money will be used to replace fescue in the park with quail-friendly native grass types such as big bluestem, little bluestem and Indian switch grass.

Fescue is great food for grazing cattle, but it’s not good for wildlife, particularly quail because it grows in clumps that don’t leave room for birds to wander through the blades of grass.

Habitat loss is the main reason for the decline of the bobwhite quail, Bedwell noted. Predators such as coyotes and feral cats contribute. Boosting quail numbers is now a statewide effort thanks to work by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The bobwhite is a favorite of wildlife watchers. It’s also a game bird. Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton was well known for his quail hunting exploits around Northwest Arkansas when the birds were abundant. Bedwell, too, is an ardent quail hunter. Right now there are few places in Arkansas that have good quail hunting, he said. Bedwell hunts mostly in western Oklahoma and southwest Missouri, Kansas and Texas.

More quail in the Pea Ridge park may translate to more quail countywide as they expand their range.

“One bird that we radio-collared went 1.5 miles outside the park,” Moore said.

Community on 05/17/2017