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From the April 2012 Conservationist

Letters

By Eileen Stegemann and Jenna Kerwin

Gamebird Gymnastics

Two rooster pheasants fighting in the air

These two rooster pheasants were fighting over a hen. We have not seen two roosters together in years, so this was quite a spectacle! We hope it is a small indication that they may be growing in numbers.
Jeff and Marie Frew
Churchville, Monroe County

Great photo! Sparring rooster pheasants are a rare sight in our state, but your location is the last stronghold for this game bird. Pheasant populations in NY have declined drastically over the past 50 years due to changes in habitat. To combat this decline, DEC is partnering with government and private conservation organizations to establish the Genesee Valley Pheasant Habitat Focus Area. Hopefully, conservation efforts like this will allow people to enjoy the sight and sound of sparring and cackling roosters for years to come.
-Michael Schiavone,
DEC Wildlife Biologist

Take-Down

A coyote stands next to a deer it has just killed

I was taking photos from a duck blind when a single (quite large) coyote chased down and took a deer within 50 feet of me!
Jim Yates
Kingston, Ulster County

What an amazing event for you to witness. While it is sometimes hard to see an animal's life taken in front of you, it's also incredible to see "Mother Nature in action."
-Conservationist staff

Hey-Move Over

I took this photo at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. There were so many carp at this particular barrier that the water was absolutely brimming with them!

A crowded group of spawning carp

Laurie Dirkx
Ontario, Wayne County

This is a great shot of a group of spawning carp that typically crowd shallow, weedy areas during late spring into early summer to broadcast their eggs. It's quite a sight to see, and the event can appear quite frenzied, with the fishes' bodies sometimes exposed out of the water. Originally from Asia, common carp (pictured here) are found in waters across the state. They prefer clean waters, but can tolerate low water quality. Carp taken from clean waters are excellent to eat.
-Conservationist staff

Eying a Vulture

A turkey vulture perched in a bare tree

I took this photo at Treman State Park. There were a bunch of turkey vultures roosting in a tree right near a public highway. They are so amazing.
Abigail Bixby
Tompkins County

What a great photo! We were curious about the white lesions near the eye and checked with DEC pathologists and a Cornell veterinary scientist who thought they might be normal characteristics that become prominent during the breeding season.
-Conservationist staff

Beautiful Bloodroot

The white flower of the double bloodroot

We found this flower in the woods next to our home. Any idea what it might be?
"Naddy"

This is a double bloodroot-and a gorgeous one at that! See the wildflower profile about bloodroot in our April 2008 issue.
-Conservationist staff


Cricket Frogs Article

I seriously appreciate your publishing my article [on cricket frogs in the February issue]. My own theory [regarding the population decline] was described in the piece as attributable to "some scientists," which, coming from a first-person narrative penned by me, suggests (in error) that this is not my own theory. I would like to see the record corrected.
Thanks for providing a great publication, as well!
Jay Westerveld

-Conservationist staff enjoyed the article, and we regret the error.


Editor's Note: December's cover inspired people to send in photos of snowy owls. There's been a recent irruption of these owls, possibly due to fierce competition for the birds' main food source (lemmings) in their Arctic home. Thus, the owls have been flying farther south in search of food.

To see more photos of owls and other wildlife taken by readers like you, be sure to visit and "like" our Facebook page. Also, be sure to send us your photos! You might see them here or on our Facebook page.


Ask the Biologist

Q: I was out turkey hunting last spring when I flushed a grouse off of her nest. I took a look and was surprised to see two large eggs, which I realized were turkey eggs. I know that some birds, such as wood ducks, will dump eggs (lay them in another bird's nest) for various reasons. Is it possible a turkey did this? And, could the grouse hatch the turkey eggs?
-Noah Funiciello

A: It is not unheard of for a female turkey to dump eggs in a grouse nest, or vice-versa. Both species pick similar nest sites, and the females are stimulated to lay by the sight of eggs. So, in areas where grouse and turkey ranges overlap, it is not surprising that one species might encounter the other's nest and put her own egg in it.

It is unlikely, however, that a grouse could hatch turkey eggs because turkey eggs take longer to incubate: 28 days for turkey eggs; 21 days for grouse eggs. As grouse hens start incubating the eggs after the last one has been laid, all the eggs start developing at the same time. Once the eggs hatch, hens leave with the chicks about 24 hours later and do not seem concerned about unhatched eggs. Since turkey eggs still need another week of incubation, they won't hatch.
- Michael Schiavone, DEC Wildlife Biologist and Bill Healy, USFS Wildlife Biologist (retired)