Creating Habitat and Opportunity in South Carolina

e55ba608-1e24-4816-bf2c-5de521d14d32 South Carolina Coordinating Biologist, Jake McClain has been working closely with the US Forest Service and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to make the Indian Creek Quail Focal Area (QFA) on Sumter National Forest a place where bobwhites can thrive.

The 2,600-acre QFA has seen intensive timber thinning, regular prescribed fire, spot herbicide treatment, and establishment of native vegetation to restore pine savannas, woodlands, and meadows.

McClain conducts fall covey counts and spring whistle counts on both the Indian Creek Focal Area and a Reference Area to monitor the quail population and track responses to habitat the management, and the results are encouraging.

Population monitoring began in the spring of 2016 with only three whistlers heard across the 12 survey points. In 2020, McClain documented 19 bobwhites whistling loud and clear!

Working through a Challenge Cost Share Agreement with the USFS and support from the SC DNR and Quail Forever chapters, McClain coordinates planning and implementation of habitat improvements on the Sumter, but also spends time providing technical assistance and Farm Bill program advice to the private landowners within the QFA.

The numerous private inholdings and bordering farms provide excellent opportunities for the local landowners to play an important role in bobwhite recovery. Many landowners have reported hearing more birds this spring than in the past 15 years.

Hearing that whistle excites folks to do their part to help the quail cause by enrolling in programs like EQIP or CSP to implement Conservation Practices such as establishing firebreaks, prescribed burning, thinning timber, or planting native grasses and forbs.

The Indian Creek Focal Area is a good example of what can be accomplished when the right partners come together for bobwhites.

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Quail Forever Journal. To read more great quail content, become a member today!