Bobwhite quail

Jim_H

Scout
May 23, 2024
40
21
Medford
I've seen some old articles that bobwhite quail were reintroduced to NJ from Georgia. I know from one article that it is the Haines Property around Speedwell managed by Bob Williams of Pine Creek Forestry. I figure if I'm going to hear them, they likely are north of the Friendship-Speedwell Road and south of the old NJ Central Line, west of 563 and east of the upper Wading tributaries.

Has anyone been out on the public access roads and heard quail in recent months? I was in Arkansas recently and heard some in an area of shortleaf-bluestem "restoration" on the Ouchita NF, and it would be nice to hear some in NJ.

Too bad the state doesn't seem interested in managing the central Wharton Tract with harvesting/thinning and increased use of fire, both dormant and growing season, to restore the overly dense uplands to a more open state. So much of the central Wharton adjacent to the Haines's lands could be suitable quail habitat, as well as the really dense pitch pine lowlands between Friendship and Jemima Mount, if burned often enough. Based on what I saw yesterday the interior of Wharton is totally unmanaged.
 

Scroggy

Scout
Jul 5, 2022
77
108
Delaware
The answer is probably sheer lack of resources; the Forest Fire Service spends a lot of time, well, putting out fires. Obviously a well-thinned forest poses less overall fire risk, and they try, but they have a lot of territory to manage and a lot of wildland-urban interface to worry about. DEP did announce a tree thinning plan in Bass River SF two years ago; thread here.
 

Teegate

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Sep 17, 2002
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I heard them a few years back on Stevenson road along Haines property. It was between Beaver Dam Road and Sim Place.
 
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GermanG

Piney
Apr 2, 2005
1,126
451
Little Egg Harbor
The large quail population that many old timers recall was likely the result of widespread clearing for activities such as farming and charcoal production, which consumed vast areas of forest during the iron and glass production eras. Fires also naturally consumed much more forest back then, before the suppression techniques and equipment that we have today came into use. This also supported bluebirds and other early successional plant and animal species, including many of our rarest ones. The populations we have now are what you'd expect in vast areas of more mature forest.

What to do about it is somewhat of a value judgment. Some, including many folks with environmental degrees on which the ink has not yet dried, think it should all be left natural, treating the pines as a snowglobe of sorts. Others welcome thining, clearing, and more intensive prescribed burning, to at least try to come close to the barrens of the past, with the goal of increasing habitat diversity and stands safer from wildfire. Little land can be considerd "natural" in this state anyway, subjected to centuries of past use and abuse by man, so guiding it in the direction deemed worthwhile is no worse a thing than our past activity. As Scroggy said, it's easier said than done, taking resources the state doesn't have, and fighting the attitudes of some who "can't see the forest for the trees", as the old saying goes. Ocean County has been doing this type of forest management on much of its acreage, and has generally received good public support. It would be nice to see more of it elsewhere in the future.
 
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Jim_H

Scout
May 23, 2024
40
21
Medford
I’ve never heard quail in Wharton or adjacent lands. Have heard them in Salem County near running deer golf club.
I wouldn't expect to hear any in Wharton or any state managed lands. Not in their present condition. These would be on the private lands owned by the Haines family and the Pine Island Cranberry growers. The ones in Salem County were likely farmed and released, not wild birds.

The large quail population that many old timers recall was likely the result of widespread clearing for activities such as farming and charcoal production, which consumed vast areas of forest during the iron and glass production eras. Fires also naturally consumed much more forest back then, before the suppression techniques and equipment that we have today came into use. This also supported bluebirds and other early successional plant and animal species, including many of our rarest ones.
While there may have been more quail around in 1900 than in 1500, the present condition of the pineland's upland shortleaf-oak, and the pitch pine lowlands is not natural forest. It is definetly fire excluded. The stocking of the forest and fuel loads with a thick duff layer and no fire in decades is a pretty good indication of this. It is an overly dense 3rd and 4th (maybe 5th or greater) growth forest of negatively and poorly managed forest that has far more trees than there would be with a natural fire regime. The small diameter ones, not the larger diameter trees.

The disappearance of other fire dependent plant species from areas like the pitch pine lowlands and adjacent wetlands is a close parallel to the local extinction of species like quail. Huge areas of extremely dense pitch pine over an impenatrable shrub layer of just a few species is terrible for wildlife and humans, alike.

Fire, "consuming a forest", is the language used during the Dixie Crusade which was employed to cast fire strictly in a negative light and has led to a near complete eradication of ecosystems like longleaf pine, as well as many others, and the degradation of many other US ecosystems, the pinelands included, with the primarily shortleaf uplands and pitch lowlands, as well as adjacent wetlands existing in a highly degraded state. Even the oak dominated forests can be included.

It is ecologically aberrant for these ecosystems found in the pinelands to exist in their present state, but the emphasis in NJ seems to focus strictly on "preservation" from development with little consideration for the ecology of the system. It's a very urban view, one not grounded in reality, and the same outdated view that birthed the 1964 wilderness act and has led to total destruction of many western wilderness areas with moonscapes replacing a variety of fire dependent systems due to a century of fire exclusion, inability to manage and finally a hot stand replacing fire where formerly there was frequent lower intensity fire.

Many ideologically driven people shriek when they hear, "management", but by virtue of humans existing on the land we are managing. It is purely what I term negative managment, where fire is suppressed or excluded either directly or through road construction, and systems are mined for a resource with no further consideration for the future of the system. The state seems to do this a lot when they harvest oak for fuelwood, and then never return to manage the subsequent stand of pine that often regenerates post disturbance.

The NJ pinelands on the coastal plain is really just an extension of the Atlantic Coastal plain with it's high fire frequency and therefore lower fire intensities. Virtually every NJ pinelands enthusiast is aware of pitch pine with varieties that exhibit serotiny as well as the ability of it to produce epicormic sprouts after high intensity fire. Just as with pond pine further south, primarily in the Carolinas, there was also a component of moderate and high intensity fire occuring in areas at longer intervals. Today, with few exceptions, the only natural summer or growing season (leaved out time) fire in the pinelands today is the low frequency high intensity fires which occurred in some of the lowlands along US 206 a year or two ago; primarly uncontrolled wildfires.

Few people seem to be aware of Shortleaf pines ability to resprout as a seedling following top kill, or that shorleaf formerly was far more common and existed in fire depenent forests which were far more open than they are today. This also was not unique to NJ, although besides western Arkansas, NJ is one of the few places in the USA that still has a forest canopy where shortleaf exists as a primary component.

It isn't realistic to use growing season fire in interface areas, but relatively isolated areas of larger state forests could easily be managed with fire with a significant percentage of the prescibed fires being growing season. There just doesn't seem to be the will for this. It is a shame, as there is already an excellent network of existing breaks and roads that would lend themselves to larger burn blocks. Those white "roads" on the google sourced map would be great for that purpose, yet there appears to be no sign of fire in decades over much of that area. I observed little to no stem char on tree bark, and the duff and shrubs were universaly thick on ridges and in lowlands. Those 2 transects in the attached image I used to measure given an estimated area roughly 900 acres in size, which would be a great size to start with.

The populations we have now are what you'd expect in vast areas of more mature forest.
The quail went extinct in the pinelands in the 1980s or 1990s, per the audobon society. As I wrote earlier, this is not unique to NJ, and collecting birds across the south proved difficult for translocation to NJ for the 2018 releases. https://njaudubon.org/northern-bobwhite-restoration-initiative/

I am curious what you mean by mature forest?

I have attached a few photos I took 2 days ago on my hike. They are from the northern and western side of the Penn Branch trail. 22low is the typical dense fire excluded shortleaf-oak mix, with a large number of younger shortleaf regeneration visible under an overstory of mature shortleaf. There is also a midstory of primarly post oak and unstory of heath shrubs.

35 and 39 are from the burned area on the west side. The 2 fires in summer have produced a great outcome for the ground cover, with a high diversity of plants. The fires that created this did not need to happen this way. In both images we see shortleaf, but there is also pitch pine. The density of the pines still appears higher than it is due to standing dead, but if this area was to continue to have growing season fires on a roughly 5 year mean return interval, and not those pathetic cold February fires once every decade that the state loves, in time this area could produce what I would call a mature shortleaf forest which was ecologically valuable and what early settlers encountered. The diversity of herbaceous plants in the open areas, but even under pine trees, was really high.

Maybe the audobon society could start to release some birds out there? Then again, the state may not want to be forced to manage for them, as would happen if RCWs were to suddenly pop up in an area of the Pinelands? lol
 

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Boyd

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I have attached a few photos I took 2 days ago on my hike.

First... welcome to the site! But since you're new, just a note about posting photos. Please re-size any photos before posting them here, there's no need to post full-resolution images directly from your phone or camera. Unless there's some important reason for posting huge files, we prefer that you keep images to about 1,000 pixels wide and file sizes less than 1MB. Yours are about 5,000 pixels wide and 9MB each.

If you don't know how to re-size the images, just ask. Thanks!
 
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Jim_H

Scout
May 23, 2024
40
21
Medford
Just a closed canopy stand, later along in forest succession. And by expected populations in that particular habitat, I meant essentially zero.
Ah, okay. Canopy is still pretty open in much of the upland shortleaf-oak forest. See the 22low photo above. It was pretty representative of the forest I hiked along the eastern and northern Penn Branch Trail. The ground cover is the issue in the pinelands far more than the canopy density. If the canopy was closed with minimal light getting to the floor, we would have far less shrub layer. Basically, it is the same as before. Lack of fire and a build up of duff, dense shrubs, and lack of suitable herbaceous cover.
 

bobpbx

Piney
Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
14,363
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Pines; Bamber area
Ah, okay. Canopy is still pretty open in much of the upland shortleaf-oak forest. See the 22low photo above. It was pretty representative of the forest I hiked along the eastern and northern Penn Branch Trail. The ground cover is the issue in the pinelands far more than the canopy density. If the canopy was closed with minimal light getting to the floor, we would have far less shrub layer. Basically, it is the same as before. Lack of fire and a build up of duff, dense shrubs, and lack of suitable herbaceous cover.
Your statements are timely for me. I'm doing a plant survey for Audubon right now, and was out there today. It's a blend of pitch pine lowland and pitch pine upland. The lowland has duff 4 to 6" deep, inhibiting the good stuff like orchids and sedges and gentians. I was looking for bellwort, since it's still a listed plant. Very frustrating to see the lack of fire allow build up duff so deep that no seeds can even reach the soil. There is a large senior community, complicating a hot fire plan. But as I was driving away I thought "well, maybe they can just do small sections at a time".

What is your background? You've obviously had some exposure to ecology and such.
 
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Jim_H

Scout
May 23, 2024
40
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Medford
Your statements are timely for me. I'm doing a plant survey for Audubon right now, and was out there today. It's a blend of pitch pine lowland and pitch pine upland. The lowland has duff 4 to 6" deep, inhibiting the good stuff like orchids and sedges and gentians. I was looking for bellwort, since it's still a listed plant. Very frustrating to see the lack of fire allow build up duff so deep that no seeds can even reach the soil. There is a large senior community, complicating a hot fire plan. But as I was driving away I thought "well, maybe they can just do small sections at a time".

What is your background? You've obviously had some exposure to ecology and such.
I have a forestry BS, and a little Grad school for silvicultural, but dropped out when it become obvious it was a waste of time. I did work as a forester in Florida for a year, and worked on Fort Dix 18 years ago. However, even though I did other things sine 2007, I still enjoy the ecology, ecosystems, and mostly I enjoy being out in pleasant places, so very often fire maintained systems are the most enjoyable to be in and most interesting. Some of that might be because so much of the continent was fire dependent.

I read some of the dated threads and having a forestry BS does not mean I am somehow beholden to timber or that I would want to see a place like the pinelands turned into an industrial forest. If anything, schooling in Florida 20 years ago made me realize how nice it is to not have a forest that is exclusively for timber, and how rare it is.

Where were you doing this survey? 4 to 6 inches of duff is pretty thick. Lots of fuel and thick enough it might kill the trees, even in winter. It would be a good first step to burn during the traditional winter-spring burn season at least once, maybe twice before starting to shift to growing season, but proximity to urban places really complicates that. This is why I wish the state was more proactive with ecological burns in the heart of their large tracts.
 

bobpbx

Piney
Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
14,363
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Pines; Bamber area
I have a forestry BS, and a little Grad school for silvicultural, but dropped out when it become obvious it was a waste of time. I did work as a forester in Florida for a year, and worked on Fort Dix 18 years ago. However, even though I did other things sine 2007, I still enjoy the ecology, ecosystems, and mostly I enjoy being out in pleasant places, so very often fire maintained systems are the most enjoyable to be in and most interesting. Some of that might be because so much of the continent was fire dependent.

I read some of the dated threads and having a forestry BS does not mean I am somehow beholden to timber or that I would want to see a place like the pinelands turned into an industrial forest. If anything, schooling in Florida 20 years ago made me realize how nice it is to not have a forest that is exclusively for timber, and how rare it is.

Where were you doing this survey? 4 to 6 inches of duff is pretty thick. Lots of fuel and thick enough it might kill the trees, even in winter. It would be a good first step to burn during the traditional winter-spring burn season at least once, maybe twice before starting to shift to growing season, but proximity to urban places really complicates that. This is why I wish the state was more proactive with ecological burns in the heart of their large tracts.
I'm doing this just west of South Toms River, and south of a humongous community bordering route 37. Here below, within the waypoints. An airport to the west, a suburb to the east, a big landowner to the south, and grey heads like me to the north.

1716601385932.png
 

bobpbx

Piney
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Oct 25, 2002
14,363
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Pines; Bamber area
It would be a good first step to burn during the traditional winter-spring burn season at least once, maybe twice before starting to shift to growing season, but proximity to urban places really complicates that. This is why I wish the state was more proactive with ecological burns in the heart of their large tracts.
Their burns are never hot, that's the problem. Did you see my post about a very hot wildfire burn I visited awhile back? Now that was hot! It was at the tail end of a bad drought.

 
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Jim_H

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May 23, 2024
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Medford
Their burns are never hot, that's the problem. Did you see my post about a very hot wildfire burn I visited awhile back? Now that was hot! It was at the tail end of a bad drought.

I have now. Have you explored the area south of Quaker Bridge and east of the Basto? 2 hot fires from what I have seen. 2017 ans 2022. A very nice area.
 

bobpbx

Piney
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Oct 25, 2002
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Pines; Bamber area
I have now. Have you explored the area south of Quaker Bridge and east of the Basto? 2 hot fires from what I have seen. 2017 ans 2022. A very nice area.
No, but others who live closer have been there. We all like the after-effects of fire. I did a lot of surveying after the big fire a few years ago west of the Mullica and East of route 206. That was a great rejuvinator. I reported over 400 pine barren gentians after that fire.
 
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Jim_H

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May 23, 2024
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Medford
No, but others who live closer have been there. We all like the after-effects of fire. I did a lot of surveying after the big fire a few years ago west of the Mullica and East of route 206. That was a great rejuvinator. I reported over 400 pine barren gentians after that fire.
I used to kayak the Basto river from Quaker Bridge to Basto. in the late 90s and in 2000. I recall areas along the river, mostly on the east side, where we could pull back into protected flats where water from creeks or swamps was draining into the river's main stem. At that time, there were still pitcher plants and sundews, but with the red maple that was growing, they might have been declining. It would be nice if that area burned hot enough to open up areas for those carnivorous plants.
 
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Jim_H

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May 23, 2024
40
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Medford
I sent an email to the Audubon Society and heard back today. Doesn't sound very promising. They don't seem very interested in further releases, and were vague about managing for quail. This is NJ, I guess.
 

Teegate

Administrator
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Sep 17, 2002
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Today you have a group of people there who have an interest, and tomorrow they are in new positions or not even there. That happens all the time with the state unfortunately.
 

Jim_H

Scout
May 23, 2024
40
21
Medford
Today you have a group of people there who have an interest, and tomorrow they are in new positions or not even there. That happens all the time with the state unfortunately.
The State should have a formalized forest management plan to prevent those sort of wind change decisions. Forests and ecosystems that are to be positively managed need have plans that are looking 3 months out, sure, but also 5, 10 , 25 and 50 years out.

I really haven't been able to find a lot on state websites as NJ isn't affected by NEPA the way National Forests were, since NEPA was federal, but I did find open letters to editors by the President of the NJ Sierra Club demanding that (2013) forest management bills receive a no vote by the state legislators, and other dated articles that say the Governor vetoed a forest management bill. It really seems like completely ignorant people are in charge of the state lands. It's great to buy up and preserve the land from development, but to then sit back and act like doing nothing is the appropriate strategy is why species have started to go extinct in the state. If you do nothing else, burn the forests in the growing season!
 
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