"Audubon scientists took advantage of 140 million observations, recorded by birders and scientists, to describe where 604 North American bird species live today — an area known as their “range.” They then used the latest climate models to project how each species’s range will shift as climate change and other human impacts advance across the continent. The results are clear: Birds will be forced to relocate to find favorable homes. And they may not survive."
by Dave Smith
Ruffed grouse hunters in the Great Lakes region have learned over generations to pursue ruffs when they peak in their 9-to-11 year cycle, which last occurred between 2009 and 2011. Each year since has been marked by a predictable decline, but the results of this springˊs drumming surveys show an increase, statewide, in Minnesota and Michigan, and a slight increase in northern Wisconsin.
"This may indicate the beginning of an upswing in the grouse cycle, which has been in the declining phase since 2009," said Charlotte Roy, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Roy reported a 34 percent increase in the annual drumming surveys statewide, driven by the birdˊs prime range in northern Minnesota.
Michiganˊs drumming surveys revealed an increase from 10 to 12 drums per route, according to Al Stewart, Upland Game Bird Specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Further, Stewart says that the heavy snow this winter and ideal moisture conditions this spring were perfect for over-winter survival and reproduction, thus he is cautiously optimistic for a slight increase in grouse numbers this fall.
Grouse populations in Maine have declined from the recent peak but are still near the long-term average, and this yearˊs hatch makes for a promising hunting season. "We had favorable weather for grouse nesting and hatch," said Kelsey Sullivan, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. "Drumming surveys completed this spring revealed that areas with quality grouse habitat – such as much of northern Maine above Old Town – showed good activity, so I expect production will be relatively good."
Morgan Calahan, 17, of Beaver County aspires to be a scientific illustrator.
“Anytime I talk to other people, they're like, ‘Oh no, computers are the thing now. You won't get a job,'” she said.
Calahan learned otherwise from wildlife professionals at Powdermill Nature Reserve last week.
The Wildlife Leadership Academy, a program created by the Pennsylvania Institute for Conservation Education, held a ruffed grouse-focused field school at Powdermill Nature Reserve, during which conservation experts taught 17 teenagers and four adult teachers about the state bird as well as ecology, biology and habitat management.
“I really learned a lot about the career I want to pursue,” Calahan said.
“Here you get a really hands-on experience with different professionals,” she said.
The Pennsylvania Institute for Conservation is a nonprofit organization that aims to “engage people across the state with the outdoors,” said director Michele Kittell. Its main program is the Wildlife Leadership Academy, which encourages youth to “become ambassadors for wildlife conservation in order to sustain wildlife legacy for future generations.”
Through the academy, Kittell said students attend one of three field schools, which are focused on the ruffed grouse, white-tailed deer and brook trout and coldwater conservation. After field school, they are challenged to complete outreach activities in education, community service, media engagement or the creative arts using the knowledge they gained.
The program provides students exposure to the career possibilities in wildlife and conservation because experts teach the curriculum, Kittell said. Over the years, the program has recruited students from 52 counties in the state.
Linda Ordiway, a regional biologist from the Ruffed Grouse Society, presented a slide show about aging and sexing ruffed grouse, explaining to students what physical features to look for on a bird to determine such characteristics. She said it is important to make students aware of the issues surrounding ruffed grouse.
By Mark Demko
Working his way across State Game Lands 127 in Monroe County, Jim Boburka watches his dog, a 3-year-old Brittany named Dash, dig into the thick cover that dots many sections of the expansive public hunting grounds. And while he's hoping to flush, or possibly even get a shot at one of the ruffed grouse in the area, the Bethlehem resident's thoughts aren't far from another public parcel closer to home -- one that will one day hopefully hold more grouse than it presently does, thanks to a partnership between the Ruffed Grouse Society and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
This past April, Boburka and 27 other individuals, many of them members of the RGS's Lehigh Valley Chapter, planted 1,000 Norway and white spruce seedlings on a 130-acre tract of timbered land on SGL 217 near Slatington. The work on the Blue Mountain is part of a three-year habitat enhancement project bringing together the PGC and Pennsylvania's newest RGS chapter in an effort to create the young forest habitat that's so crucial to grouse and other wildlife.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Ruffed Grouse Management Plan for 2011-2020, grouse populations in the state have been decreasing since 1980. As part of its strategy for boosting the bird's numbers, the agency is working to increase the amount of early successional habitat -- the 5- to 15-year-old forests that provide ideal cover for the bird -- by more than 900,000 acres by the end of decade. One of the keys to meeting this goal is developing new partnerships and enhancing existing ones, which is where conservation organizations such as the Ruffed Grouse Society play an important role.
In a sunlit clearing, a thick bodied, chicken-sized bird with gleaming plumage and harmoniously blended colors of russet, copper, and dark chocolate, steps up to his log, stone, or dirt pile podium. He spreads his black-banded fantail and shining ruffed throat collar before beginning a “drumming” performance used to either woo a mate or defend his territory from other males. Wings whip vertically in front of his puffed chest, gaining momentum as he creates a vacuum against the air. It’s the same mechanism that causes a boom of thunder after a lightning strike. This small, yet mighty bird is none other than the state bird of Pennsylvania and king of all game birds: the ruffed grouse.
Despite being North America’s widest ranging game bird inhabiting all of Canada and 38 of the 50 U.S. states, the ruffed grouse remains scattered and elusive, with populations decreasing in Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeastern United States. The Ruffed Grouse Society, a national conservation and sporting organization headquartered in Moon since the 1970s, remains dedicated to fostering prime habitat and hunting opportunities for both this species and the American woodcock.
State Forest Roads Open. Hunters heading into Pennsylvania's state-owned will find additional roads open in 18 of the 20 state forest districts, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "More than 400 miles of state forest roads normally open only for administrative use will be available to hunters in state forestlands this year," DCNR Bureau of Forestry Director Daniel Devlin said. "We hope to improve accessibility while promoting hunting where it is needed to benefit forest regeneration and the overall ecosystem."
More than 3,000 miles of state forest roadways are open during the state's main archery season, which opens Saturday, Oct. 5, and closes Nov. 16. They will continue to stay open through the rest of the hunting seasons until January 2014. "Whether their quarry is deer, bear or turkey, hunters in our state forests will find more than 90 percent of that land now is within one-half mile of an open road," said Devlin. Hunters traveling to some northcentral areas of the state are reminded some hunting areas and travel routes may be impacted by Marcellus Shale-related activities. Some state forest roads may be temporarily closed during drilling operations or other peak periods of heavy use to reduce potential safety hazards. To avoid potential conflicts on state forest roads during times of high public use, DCNR will attempt to limit or restrict truck traffic at the outset of major hunting and fishing seasons. Some state forest roads will be opened only for the second week of the traditional rifle season because they cannot withstand the expected heavy traffic of the first week. Two- or three-month long openings will be in effect only where there is minimal threat of damage or deterioration to road surfaces or forest surroundings. A complete listing of open roads, effective dates and district office telephone numbers can be found on the DCNR website.
Ruffed Grouse Society Hunt. The Ruffed Grouse Society, based in Coraopolis, has scheduled its fifth annual Upland Bird Hunt within the Pennsylvania Wilds Region of Pennsylvania for Oct. 31-Nov. 2. Reservations are $350 per hunter and $175 for a youth hunter or non-hunting guest. With limited availability, the base of operation will be the Red Fern Inn, Kersey, which is central to thousands of acres of public hunting land, including the Allegheny National Forest, several State Game Lands and State Forest lands. A Pennsylvania resident or non-resident hunting license is required. The UBH adventure includes two days of hunting with a huntsman Nov 1-2 and a "Meet the Artist" program featuring a number of recognized wildlife artist and carvers. For more information, visit the RGC website.