Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Heavy rainfall concerns this month

Wow! what a month for moisture. So far this month we have had 3 times the amount of rain as normal for the whole month. The weather forecast says today is about the end to this trend for the month. Hopefully we will be back to normal from here on.

I've been getting lots of request on my thoughts about all this rain and it's effects on the chukar hatch. I've done lot's of reading and kept lot's of notes of observations of chukar populations but sadly haven't kept notes of rainfall amounts in June for each year. If anyone could possibly tell me how to find the average rainfall amount in June for the past 30 years I could come up with a little more positive answer to how much the spring rains effect the outcome for the coming seasons.

Even with the heavy rainfalls we have had I know we are better off than drought conditions. On dry years many of the birds don't even try to nest. The vegetation and insects are not there to produce healthy conditions for reproduction, so on drought years you will see many small coveys of birds in the spring instead of pairs. Spring rains produce lot's of green up and insects which are the main ingredients for good chick survival. This June has provided plenty of that. Chicks that have survived so far or that haven't hatched yet should have an abundance of feed for the remainder of the summer months. Conditions from here out should be optimum for survival. A rain or two in July and August might help conditions even more but won't be necessary for what could be a good year.

With that being said, I'll give my thoughts of what might happen. First of all, although most articles say the mean time for chukar/hun hatching is about June 10, I believe it occurs later in the month. My only reason for thinking that is from observations of size of birds in late July and early August. I raised chukars for a couple of years and "think" I can judge age pretty well from their size and flight ability. If I am right, than the most hatches are just beginning. The hatches that have already happened and have been lost have plenty of time for the hen to renest and still have good number of eggs to hatch. These spring conditions have produced prime nutrients for hens to reproduce plenty of eggs for a second hatch. The second hatch from these hens will probably be as good as the first one where on a normal weather year the egg numbers may be smaller.

Chukars and huns are resilient nesters and will keep trying to nest as long as conditions are right. I believe it is a myth that they will nest two or three times and raise separate broods. I think they will only have a second brood if they lose all their chicks. It's not possible to raise chicks and sit a nest at the same time so they will have only one brood per year. But on normal years with moisture almost all hens are reproducing instead of just a portion of them on drought years and they will keep on trying until successful or it's too late. That is why we sometimes see birds so young clear into late October.

I haven't been able to get out and locate chukar and hun nests this Spring because of my lack of mobility but I have been able to drive the roads and observe the bigger birds(turkey) and find a few of their nest for observation. I found five nests and the earliest of them hatched May 23rd and the latest was just five days ago. Two of the nest were destroyed by predators which I believe is definitely harder on nest than rain. I can't speak of survival of the chicks because of my inability to get out and observe little ones feeding with the mom nor do I want to take a chance of disturbing them on these wet days. I do believe that the other upland birds are two to three weeks behind turkeys in the hatch so that would place hatch times from mid June on.

I have no biological facts to say I'm right but I really believe June rains don't hurt the numbers as much as I use to. These heavy rains had to have hurt some but not as much as I once feared. Keep thinking positive. I do know that we will at least have a normal year. Every down year that I can recall has been preceded by a dry spring and summer. Hopefully this will be a banner year and we will learn a little more about chukar/hun reproduction conditions.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Snake avoidance.

Although we have never had a problem with rattle snakes I have always done some snake avoidance with my dogs. Tucker and Dakota went to snake avoidance class while Jake and Grady were taught by me. Sometimes you have to wonder if it really works but once in a while the right opportunity comes along to help ease the mind. Mine was today.

While rehabbing on a logging road with my dogs I came across a bull snake on the road. At 60 degrees he wasn't moving much so I didn't know whether the dogs had even crossed his path as they jogged around looking for some kind of prey. So I called them back down the road ready to give them some stimulation when either they reacted to the snake or the snake reacted to them and surprisingly they both stopped right next to the snake and looked for me to release them to go play.

Neither dog acted as if they smelled the snake and the snake wasn't interested in getting any attention so I snapped the photo and walked the dogs down the road where they proceeded hunting for whatever they could find. I went back to the snake and pushed him around with my cane aggravating it some until it was hissing and striking at the object.

I than called the boys back and when they saw the movement of the snake they retreated quickly without any stimulus. It's a nice feeling to know that the avoidance is there.

I don't know why the dogs didn't smell the snake because I have seen them react from the smell of snakes before but it was obvious they had no idea at our first contact. None of this will ever solve that chance meeting but it will eliminate the curious dog that has to see what the snake is doing and go in for a closer look, especially puppies. 

This also shows that generally snakes won't react to dogs or other objects like canes unless provoked. Knock on wood that our fortune with snakes will stay the same for the coming years.
For some reason the movie portion isn't working right so you'll have to imagine the snake striking at my cane. I'm about to give up on this technology.