Thursday, April 28, 2011

100 Young Birders Seek, Find Scores of Bird Species in Annual Contest

Conservation, birds and about 100 young Georgia birders all benefited from the 2011 Youth Birding Competition.

The 24-hour birding event held Saturday and Sunday, April 16-17, drew some 25 teams of contestants from preschool-ages to teens. They spotted scores of bird species and raised nearly $1,500 for conservation organizations. Fundraising is a voluntary component of the competition.

The Country Cuckoos, four brothers and a first cousin from Bainbridge, saw or heard 133 species to win the overall competition, checking birding hotspots across the state and overcoming a windy Saturday evening that kept many birds quiet. Member Josiah Austinson found a silver lining in the blustery weather. “It saved us from the mosquitoes,” he said smiling.

The reward for competition coordinator Tim Keyes, a Georgia Wildlife Resources Division biologist, is the “increase of new faces every year … (and) the return of repeat teams, which shows they’re getting hooked!”

The Youth Birding Contest is aimed at cultivating an interest in wildlife and conservation. Sponsors include The Environmental Resources Network Inc. (TERN), the Audubon Society, the Georgia Ornithological Society and others.

T-shirts worn by birders and team leaders at the banquet and awards ceremony at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center Sunday featured the artwork of Rosemary Kramer of The Rock community in Upson County. The red-breasted nuthatch by Kramer, an eighth-grader at Upson Lee Middle School, proved the grand-prize winner in the event’s T-shirt Contest.

Coordinator Linda May said judges chose four division winners from among 166 drawings and paintings of native Georgia birds. Kramer’s entry led the middle school category. “I'm so excited to see all of these kids enjoying birds, whether it's through birdwatching or creating artwork,” May said. “They're gaining a much better understanding and appreciation of nature than I had at that age.”

The 2012 Youth Birding Competition is set for April 27-28. The annual competition and art contest are free. This year’s bird-a-thon started at 5 p.m. Saturday and ended at 5 p.m. Sunday. Groups used as much as of that time as they wanted to count bird species throughout the state. But teams had to arrive at the “finish line” at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield by 5 p.m. Sunday.


2011 Youth Birding Competition Winners

Birding
Overall and high school division – Country Cuckoos (133 species)
Middle – Chaotic Kestrels (116)
Elementary – Eagle Maniacs (94 species)
Primary – Little Chickadees (38 species)

Fundraising
1. Birding Brothers, raising $516.
2. Country Cuckoos ($360)
3. Atlanta Wood Thrushes ($200)

The money goes to conservation groups chosen by the teams.

Top Rookie Teams (first-year teams)
High school – G’Nats 1 (90 species)
Primary – Daisy Ducks 1/prime time (37 species)

Birding Journal
High school – Anna Hamilton
Middle – Emmilyn Wade
Elementary – Madeline Studebaker
Primary – Dalton Gibbs

T-shirt Art Contest
1. Primary division (out of 54 entries): Jordan Beam of Newborn, second-grader at Piedmont Academy (barn owl drawing)
2. Elementary school division (89 entries): Hanka Kirby of Cumming, fifth-grader at Chattahoochee Elementary (cardinal drawing)
3. Middle school division (19 entries): Rosemary Kramer of The Rock, eighth-grader at Upson Lee Middle School (red-breasted nuthatch painting). Kramer also was the grand-prize winner.
4. High school division (four entries): Taylor Green of Covington, 12th-grade homeschooler (white-eyed vireo painting)

Art contest division winners received $50 gift cards to Michael's. The grand-prize winner received a $100 gift card to Michael’s and their artwork was used for the 2011 Youth Birding Competition T-shirt.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Georgia Forestry Commission Urges Prevention in Wake of South Georgia Wildfires

Georgia Forestry Commission crews have successfully contained fires in south Georgia, where tens of thousands of acres have been scorched since early March. Recent rainfall helped firefighters gain the upper hand on the blazes, which had prompted a weekend restriction on outdoor burning throughout the state. Firefighting resources are now being released to their home districts, and the Georgia Forestry Commission is again issuing burn permits when local weather conditions allow.

Burn restrictions were lifted April 1, 2011,  in the GFC Ogeechee District (Wilcox, Pulaski, Bleckley, Laurens, Dodge, Telfair, Wheeler, Treutlen, Montgomery, Emanuel, Toombs, Tattnall, Evans, Candler, Jenkins, Screven, Effingham, Bulloch, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, Bryan and Chatham counties), with the exception of Long County, where permits will not be issued until further notice. The GFC Satilla District (Jeff Davis, Appling, Wayne, Glynn, Coffee, Bacon, Pierce, Brantley, Camden, Charlton, Ware, Atkinson, Berrien, Lanier, Clinch, Echols and Lowndes counties) has extended the restriction on permits for outdoor burning at least through Monday, April 4, when conditions will be reevaluated.

Despite the rain's temporary relief, fire authorities say a severe drought is expected to persist this summer, raising the risk of wildfire and posing a threat to property and lives.

"Now is the time to take steps to protect your home from fire," said Troy Floyd, Incident Management Team Commander of the Georgia Forestry Commission. "Getting a burn permit for any outdoor debris burning is an absolute must, but there are actions residents can take around the home to minimize damage from wildfire."

Cleaning flammable materials from a 30-feet barrier around the home is extremely important, according to Floyd.

"Homeowners should break the chain of ignition from the forest to the home," he said. "That includes clearing yard debris and firewood and moving gas tanks. Pine and leaf litter should be removed from roofs, gutters and eaves regularly."

Floyd said water is an obvious tool to have close by, and recommending that hoses with faucets be installed on each side of the home. Other tools comprising an emergency kit include a rake, shovel, bucket, garden hose, axe and a ladder that will reach the roof.

Floyd said summer staples such as barbecue grills and lawnmowers are also possible sources of ignition and should be used carefully, especially in times of drought.

"The number one cause of wildfire is escaped debris burning," said Floyd. "When weather conditions are appropriate, burn permits for hand piled natural vegetation are issued online at GaTrees.org." Permits for machine piled or area burns can be obtained by contacting a local office of the Georgia Forestry Commission, he said.

"Our number one concern is for the protection of people and property from wildfires," said Floyd. "We depend on the cooperation of every Georgian to make that happen."

For more information about fire safety and services of the Georgia Forestry Commission, visit GaTrees.org.

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Conserve water with compost

Recycling paper and bottles is good for the planet. Recycling food waste into compost is good for your garden, saves water and makes your plants happier, according to a University of Georgia expert.

Compost is decomposed organic matter. In heavy clay soils, compost reduces compaction, increases aeration and helps water seep better into the soil. In sandy soils, it helps retain both water and nutrients, said Bob Westerfield, a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“Incorporating finished compost into vegetable garden beds or plant beds amends the soil and allows water and air to filter more easily through the soil,” he said. “This can help prevent run-off and adds nutrients to the soil.”

Wait to add compost to gardens until the soil is dry enough to be worked. He suggests tilling finished compost into the soil 6 to 8 inches deep.

Nearly finished compost can be used as mulch. It helps plants retain moisture and prevents weeds.
To make compost, mix brown and green organic materials. Brown compost material includes dry dead plants, leaves, grass clippings, shredded paper and wood chips. Brown compost provides carbon. Green compost material includes fresh-plant products, coffee grounds, tea bags and fruit and vegetable waste from the kitchen. It provides nitrogen.

Westerfield says to include more brown items than green. The ratio should be 3 to 1. Materials should be added in layers, alternating brown and green. Don’t add meats, bones, grease or other animal-based food waste. They can smell bad and attract rodents.

A pile of compost can take three weeks to six months to process, depending on the care. Adding fresh material to a pile can cause the process to take longer.

“The composting cycle will work faster if the pile is kept moist and turned frequently,” he said. “The more you agitate the pile, the faster it will compost.”

Along with turning the pile a few times a month, rainwater helps maintain moisture. Water should be added only to keep the pile moist, not wet.

“It is nice to have two or three bins so you can have several stages of compost,” he said.

Remove finished compost from the pile and put in a separate bin for use. “Some people are disappointed because they fill the bin up. And when it becomes compost, they end up with 10 to 20 percent of what they put in,” he said. “As it biodegrades, its volume drastically reduces.”

Fertilizer can be added to the pile. A little 10-10-10 mixed fertilizer and a few scoops of garden soil are suggested. Don’t add lime.

Composting provides organic material to plants and is a valuable type of recycling. “It’s a way to recycle waste and save money by producing a product from trash you would otherwise have to buy,” Westerfield said.


By April Reese Sorrow
University of Georgia

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Georgia Natural Gas® to Give Away Trees in Celebration of Earth Day at Atlantic Station

Atlantic Station Earth Day Celebration (Central Park) April 22, 2011 from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

 /PRNewswire/ -- For the second year in a row, the first 200 visitors to Georgia Natural Gas' (GNG's) venue at Atlantic Station's Earth Day Celebration will receive a free sapling (one per household) to celebrate the event. GNG acquired the young trees from the Georgia Forestry Commission. The saplings are native to Georgia and ideal for planting and cultivation immediately. The trees will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Plus, visitors can enjoy a close-up view of the Honda Civic GX natural gas vehicle, "powered by GNG." The vehicle will be displayed next to the GNG booth.

GNG representatives will be available on Earth Day to discuss weatherization tips with the public and to share It's a Natural -- the company's guide to free or low-cost energy efficiency solutions for the home. The company's representatives also can discuss GNG's internal and external sustainability efforts. The company received the Clean Air Campaign's Pace Award in 2009 and in late March was awarded the Atlanta Business Chronicle's 2011 Environmental Award in the "Ennovation" category.

The Ennovation Award recognizes GNG's landfill gas initiative and its Recycled Natural Gas program now powering the Honda Civic GX.

Georgia Natural Gas serves nearly half a million residential, commercial and industrial customers. GNG is part of SouthStar Energy Services, a Georgia-based joint venture between AGL Resources (NYSE: AGL) and Piedmont Natural Gas Co. (NYSE: PNY). SouthStar also operates in Ohio as Ohio Natural Gas, in Florida as Florida Natural Gas, in New York as New York Natural Gas, in the Carolinas as Piedmont Energy, and in other parts of the Southeast as SouthStar Energy Services. For more information, visit www.onlygng.com.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner reminds residents about termite control and prevention this spring

Springtime is in full swing and with it comes many insects we have not seen since last year. This month, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black would like to remind residents of the importance of protecting their homes and businesses against termite infestation.

“Every year, termites invade homes and cause billions of dollars worth of damage while compromising the structural integrity of the residences they infest. The Southeast has a very high termite presence due to our climate and soil conditions,” said Commissioner Black. “It is important for Georgians to prepare a plan of action to help prevent damage from occurring.”

Properties are generally protected by either liquid termiticide barrier treatments or termite monitoring and baiting programs, which help protect a building’s structure. Additionally, disturbance to the foundation soil or flooding can affect the protective measures and a licensed pest management professional can confirm whether a home or business is still protected against termites.

“Now is a great time to have your home or business checked out to determine if it’s necessary to re-establish termite control measures,” said Commissioner Black. “And termite inspection and control is one homeowner project that is best left to the professionals.”

For an average-sized home, a termite inspection from a licensed professional should take about one hour. To ensure Georgia’s consumers receive proper termite treatments, the Georgia Department of Agriculture provides free inspections of treated structures to confirm the treatment meets established standards and is safe and effective. If residents have a termite control contract that is active, or no more than two-years expired, they can set up this free service. State field agents can also inspect structures that have a Georgia Wood Infestation Inspection Report, or termite letter, as long as the letter is no more than 90 days old.

Homeowners can also take simple, preventative actions by keeping damp areas away from the home, because termites prefer damp wood. Wood debris and piles of wood (including firewood) are feeding grounds and should not be left near the home. Most professional liquid termite treatments are effective for five years, and a quick follow-up plan with your service provider will ensure steady protection for the life of your home.

Property owners should review their termite control contract to determine who is responsible for the reestablishment of the termite protection, which should be listed under the ‘terms and conditions’ within the contract.

Consumers are urged to only seek advice and use licensed professional pest control companies. If a company is not licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, it is illegal for them to practice termite control work. Residents can find a list of all licensed professional pest management companies by visiting www.kellysolutions.com/ga/structural or by contacting the Structural Pest Control Division at (404) 656-3641.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture is responsible for licensing the professional pest management companies who perform termite control. There are approximately 1,200 of these companies operating in Georgia. Consumers can learn more about the Department’s Structural Pest Control Division by visiting www.agr.georgia.gov.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Carpenter bees work on wooden structures

As enthusiastic, bored children, we would try to hit them with baseball bats. A tennis racket would have been a better choice, but there were no tennis courts on our farm. Nonetheless, carpenter bees were a lot of fun for growing boys.

Adults, though, usually aren't into fun things like that. People who live in cedar-sided or log homes see no humor at all in these obnoxious bees. They just want to get rid of them.

About this time every year people see large, black bees hovering around their heads and homes.
They're probably carpenter bees. We get very little pollination benefit from them, but we do get some headache.

Look similar to a bumblebee

Carpenter bees resemble bumblebees but have a couple of noticeable differences. The upper surface of the carpenter bee's abdomen is bare, shiny and black. Bumblebees have a hairy abdomen with at least some yellow markings.

The other difference is where they nest. Bumblebees usually nest in the ground. Carpenter bees build their nests in tunnels they create in wood. They chew a perfectly round hole about the size of a dime into soft, untreated, unpainted weathered wood.

Male carpenter bees seem to be mean. But it's all an act. They'll hover in front of people who are near, even dive-bombing occasionally. But the males are harmless. They don't even have stingers.

Females hurt, damage most

Female carpenter bees do have stingers, though, and their sting can be quite painful. I had to be stung several times before I learned to leave them alone. The females seldom sting unless they are handled or disturbed.

Even if they don't sting, female carpenter bees aren't harmless. It's the fertilized females that excavate the tunnels and lay eggs in a series of small cells.

They provision each cell with a ball of pollen, on which the larvae feed until emerging as adults in late summer. The adults will overwinter in abandoned nest tunnels to return again the next year.

Prefer bare softwoods

Carpenter bees prefer bare softwoods, especially redwood, cedar, cypress and pine. They don’t typically bother painted or pressure-treated wood.

Common attack zones are eaves, window trim, fascia boards and decks. Sawdust beneath the hole is an easily recognizable sign of attack.

Control can be a combination of things. A fresh coat of oil-based paint is very effective. They don't like paint. Wood stains and preservatives are less reliable, but better than bare wood.

Where the bees have already attacked, spraying insecticide on the wood surface won't work. You have to inject it into each burrow to be effective. An aerosol spray for wasp and bee control will work if you direct it into the hole. Applications of cypermethrin or permethrin may provide short-term control when applied to wood surfaces, but will have to be reapplied after 1 to 2 weeks to maintain control.

Plug the hole

After a couple of days, plug the hole with a piece of wood dowel coated with carpenter's glue, wood putty or your choice of filler. This last step protects against future use of the old tunnel and reduces the chance of wood decay.

It's best to spray at night to kill the adults and the brood. If you spray during the day, the adults may be gone. And they may just start a new colony.

Remember, the females can pop you pretty good, so treating towards sunset or at night helps. Or you could make it a two-person job and arm the other with the tennis racket.

By B. Wade Hutcheson 

(Wade Hutcheson is a county Extension agent with UGA Cooperative Extension serving Spalding County.)

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