What’s your quail count? A Texas AgriLife Extension Service wildlife specialist and a host of quail enthusiasts want to know.
Dr. Dale Rollins of San Angelo said the Trans-Texas Quail Count starts May 1. The grassroots effort is meant to determine the relative abundance of quail across the state. The results, which will be collected from quail-counters all over Texas, will be tabulated to give a good idea of the state’s current quail population dynamics.
Rollins hopes to involve volunteers throughout Texas. The count will run from May 1-13 during the prime time that quail roosters begin calling for mates in earnest.
“Our goal is to get as many folks out listening for quail calls across the state as possible,” Rollins said. “Counters are especially needed in the eastern half of Texas where bobwhite populations are below critical mass for hunting and thus ‘politically’ not very important.
“Many landowners and quail hunters think their local quail population imploded back in October. One of our objectives of the count is to evaluate the local abundance of quail to determine whether or not this assertion is correct.”
The count’s other objectives are:
– Bring attention to the plight of quail across Texas.
– Evaluate breeding capital after two consecutive disappointing hunting seasons.
– Demonstrate appreciation for quail among a broad array of stakeholders.
– Identify remnant quail populations, especially in areas of east and central Texas.
– Spark an interest in rekindling struggling quail populations.
– Presence/absence of bobwhites will reflect availability of quail habitat.
– Identify “usable” and non-usable space for quail.
Rollins said counting quail is easy and takes relatively little time. Ideally, counters make six stops at one-mile intervals on a property and listen for quail heard calling during a five minute period at each stop. Though the count period lasts almost two weeks, Rollins said, counters need to make the effort only once; not every day of the period.
“The bobwhite whistle is easily recognized, so training per se is minimal,” Rollins said. “Data sheets to record findings are available at: http://teamquail.tamu.edu. Hook up with friends, other hunters and a local Bobwhite Brigade youth if you wish, to form your own count team. You really need at least two counters per route so there is some check on precision. The count will only take about three hours of one morning, and it’s time well-spent.”
Rollins said counts should take place from 7-9 a.m,. and counters should record the number of different roosters heard calling, and the total number of quail whistles heard per stop. Once the counts are completed, FAX the findings to Rollins for compilation at 325-658-4364.
“Bobwhites are our main focus, but blue-scaled quail could also be included,” Rollins said. “Just remember when dealing with the blues that you’re listening for the ‘whock’ song, not the ‘chip-chur’ call.”
Rollins said he sees the count as an excellent opportunity to demonstrate what quail appreciation is all about.
“For many who participate, that morning could well be the first time they have ever really discovered the elements of a beautiful morning in an auditory sense,” Rollins said. “They will be amazed at how much noise the mockingbirds make, and how far highway noise pollutes the morning’s calm. Above all, I hope their efforts are rewarded by hearing at least three quail calling from each stop.”
This year’s quail count sponsors are AgriLife Extension, Bobwhite Brigade, Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch, Audubon Texas, Texas Master Naturalists and Quail Unlimited.