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Dr. Dale on Quail: Quail Management During Drought
I’m sometimes exhorted to “be more positive with my quail outlooks.” But sometimes it’s tough, especially when the weather plays such an important role in the outcome. Making recommendations for drought mitigation is always sobering, but especially here in May—typically one of our wettest months of the year. As reported above drought conditions are widespread across the quail-regions of the state, and La Nina is expected to persevere through late summer. But in an effort to “accentuate the positive” here are some thoughts for making the best of a bad situation (forecast-wise).
I won’t mention de-stocking (or reduced stocking) of livestock; if you haven’t done so by now, it’s too late to help quail for this nesting season anyhow. But for future reference look seriously at stocking rates and seek to be flexible (typically “understocked” for quails in semi-arid regions).
Appreciate (i.e., “judge with heightened awareness”) your prickly pear cactus and denser pockets of brush. Such sites serve as refugia for quails during the toughest of times. Be strategic, and selective, if conducting any brush or cacti control for time being. Heed the carpenter’s advice: “measure twice and saw once.”
Speak reverently about your good shady spots, especially from taller, denser shrubs/trees. Netleaf hackberry is one of our “red lanterns” (Leopold’s saying for especially valuable shrubs in his case blackberry thickets).
At this time “good weeds” for quail are scarcer than hen’s teeth. And as the forbs go, so go the insects. Hence, consider supplemental feeding at an intensity and frequency great enough to be meaningful, i.e., 100-150 pounds/acre of milo broadcast across the habitat about every two weeks.
Appreciate your “mast-producing” shrubs, e.g., plums, elbowbush, cacti, and yea, even mesquite. Their fruits and nuts (“mast”) presumably help relieve predation pressure on quail from coyotes.
We often think of water supplementation, and if quail are ever going to benefit from providing “free water”, it’s probably now. Keep in mind that quail (and most wildlife) prefer to drink from ground level, so seek to provide an overflow on livestock watering facilities. If you consider such “wasting water” then follow the advice of the late Sherman Hammond of Ft. Stockton, i.e., keep your water troughs brim-full, then when the wind blows, some will be “sloshed” over and available on the ground. Such moist soil sites are also cooler (about 25 degrees cooler when ambient temperatures reach 105 degrees F) and help to attract insects. Put a game camera on such sites to monitor visitation.
Keep your windmills (etc.) operational even if you’ve de-stocked your cattle. If you have access to (relatively) inexpensive water (e.g., a pipeline crossing your property from a reservoir to a municipal area) consider (a) flowing some water into “bird waterers (refer to the podcast with Rob Hailey), (b) or setting up a sprinkler (or better a line of sprinklers) to irrigate and produce “green spots” on the parched landscape which can serve as “bugging areas” for broods.
See the webisode “Quail Management: Coping with Drought” for additional ideas. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm2vI6XQNO0
for more information.