It is about time that Charleston came out with clear language about seriousness of school boards and individuals on them being legally liable for overspending.
Nothing like it went to the public during intervention while the GCBOE was stripped of all its power.
No wonder now why all along some GCBOE members have asked probing questions about finances and they were not answered. More power to those conscientious individuals who tried hard to do their jobs and we support them 100%.
There must be a full accounting of every dollar spent during intervention with no local oversight and no accountability at all for State-appointed superintendents.
We need a complete accounting of spending for the Linn school, the loss of public money at the top of the hill on Arbuckle property, spending at Cedar Creek, unplanned spending at the GCES, the BOE office move to the Minnie Hamilton building, the scandal from the new GCES being built too small, and much more. Citizens have tracked the waste and mismanagement for years and we are outraged.
Unless a full accounting is done for public disclosure another excess levy will never pass in the County although we understand that there will be a major reset on July 1.
Thank you GFP for getting Paine’s letter out to Gilmer County.
The fix could be simple. First, everyone pay 10 percent federal, 3 percent state, and 1 percent local taxes on all income. Straight forward, no arguments, taken from pay checks and paid to the proper authorities (that is if we can get good ones elected that will use the money properly for education, infrastructure, defense, aid for the true disabled/welfare, etc). Second, there are no deductions(sorry accountants). Third, no taxes on corporations so they are free to reinvest into their business and hire more people to work(that is if you can find qualified people not on drugs these days). Fourth, get people off government support that don’t belong there(sorry again druggies and lazies). Now if you find someone taking advantage of the current tax laws, don’t blame them for wanting to keep their own money. That’s correct, their money, not yours. We have elected the people and keep doing that who make these laws. The Clinton’s and the Bush’s and the Kennedy’s, life long politicians. If you get rich being a politician, then you need to go. At least Trump got rich first and then became a politician. Sort of did it backwards didn’t he. Each and every person that wants Trump to produce his tax returns, it is time for all of them to produce theirs. The world is full of them. Me, I can care less what he makes. Good for him. Good for me. Get over it, the left lost the election, just like the right did 8 years ago. The reason Trump is president is because the last 8 years the left didn’t get it done and Clinton was a horrible candidate. Too much baggage and ran a horrible campaign also. I think she thought she couldn’t lose but she did. Now the left is acting like babies that they can be at times and it doesn’t look good. Instead of trying to run Trump(who used to be a democrat) down, why not give him a bit of support so our country will come back stronger. It seems the media is completely against Trump, all we see is negative articles. Never positive articles so the media is losing support from the people. Sorry for the long post but it is what it is. Thanks.
What a deal we have to badger our elected representatives to do what is good and right for West Virginia! Isn’t it a no brainer to be doing the right thing for your state? Obvious money means more to our legislators than the voice of the people!
Here is another way the WV School Building Authority is failing Gilmer County by refusing to provide proper oversight.
There could be ways to use available space at the new GCES more efficiently to avoid the necessity of sending students to other locations.
By failing to get involved the SBA is not contributing to solving the crowing problem to eliminate need to use hall ways at the new school for instruction space.
This is a disgrace after spending $14,000,000 of public money, and the complete story of waste, mismanagement, and abuse of authority during intervention and its aftermath would make a great story for the New York Times to print.
Those in Gilmer County who care about the education of ALL children have said this over and over. It comes as no surprise that more and more the research backs how consolidation fails them. There is no democratic governance over education here. It is simply a matter of who matters to garner support for political campaigns. Many Gilmer students have been a poster child for rural education success over the years. (At least until intervention strictly for the purpose of consolidation reared its ugly head.)Will the legislature have enough back bone to get what needs be done? Or will the Senate let all the House of Delegates and the Governor’s hard work die in committee?
Members of the Board of Governors are GSC’s ultimate leaders. They set the agenda for the President to carry out.
What happened at GSC to get it in trouble tracks to the BOG and there is no way around it.
When openings occur on the BOG the top criterion for selecting replacements has been to favor those who will run with the herd to be unwavering participants in the group think trap.
No new ideas tolerated, never seek outside critical review of organizational approaches to continually strive for improved ways of doing business, always claim that all is well while the ship is sinking, and above all else never admit that problems exist and if ones become known to the public always blame outside forces.
I just bought a new car. I signed a contract saying that I’d pay for it but paying for it is holding me back from other things that I want to do. Could we please add my car payments to your debt-forgiveness plan? If that doesn’t work out, could we get somebody else to pay for it for me? Seriously, many/most of the students who made these OBLIGATIONS, did so they could make more money, generally for doing less labor-intensive work and at the behest of the EDUCATION INDUSTRY which sold them a bill of goods that a college education guarantees success. The same colleges that charge exorbitant fees, which constantly rise at a rate greater than the cost of living increase or the rate of inflation. The same institutions that pay their administrators exorbitant salaries and that pay their athletics directors and coaches obscene salaries. The same colleges and universities that have brilliant minds in economics but who can’t manage to keep college costs and tuitions from skyrocketing. The same colleges that churn out students getting degrees that don’t have any or minimal real-world value. Of course it’s easier to blame the situation on the greedy, heartless conservatives than for people to take their individual responsibility because it’s not THEIR fault; it’s somebody else’s fault. IT’s ALWAYS somebody else’s fault.
Forest Enhancement Information Meeting Set for January 05, 2016
GLENVILLE, WV — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the National Wild Turkey Federation will co-host a forest enhancement information meeting in early January.
As part of the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program, NRCS and partner agencies have developed the Cerulean Warbler Appalachian Forestland Enhancement project. Its goal: To enhance 4,000 acres of forest habitat on private lands over the next five years. Restoration of 75 acres of mineland is also a component.
Residents in Doddridge, Gilmer, Harrison, and Lewis Counties are encouraged to attend as parts of all four counties may be eligible for technical and, in some cases, financial, assistance.
The meeting is free and open to the public.
It will be held at 6:30 PM January 05, 2015 at the Leading Creek Elementary School, 15300 US Highway 33 West, Linn, West Virginia.
Legislation will increase public lands access for sportsmen and promote West Virginia’s outdoor recreation economy
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, applauded the bipartisan passage of the Sportsmen’s Act of 2015. The legislation will enhance hunting, fishing and recreational shooting opportunities by increasing access to federal lands. It also includes the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The bill passed the ENR Committee by a voice vote.
“As a lifelong, avid sportsman, I know firsthand that our hunting, fishing and outdoor heritage is so important to who we are as West Virginians and as Americans,” Senator Manchin said. “In West Virginia, it’s a family affair and an opportunity to pass along, from one generation to another, a deep and lasting appreciation for all the outdoors have to offer. I believe that we should protect these traditions that help define who we are. This bipartisan bill will boost West Virginia’s economy while expanding hunting and fishing rights and allowing people a greater ability to enjoy the outdoors.”
Senator Manchin’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:
As an avid sportsman, I believe that hunting and fishing are an integral part of the American culture and a powerful force of good protecting and preserving the natural world around us.
In West Virginia, it’s a family affair and an opportunity to pass along – from one generation to another – a deep and lasting appreciation for all the outdoors have to offer.
One of my top priorities is to make sure that the people I represent can carry on that tradition by ensuring they have access to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on our nation’s public lands.
In my home state, we have more than 1.6 million acres of public land open to hunting with 28 shooting ranges on these lands.
We have a year-round fishing season, with more than 20,000 miles of streams and more than 100 public fishing lakes.
But this is about more than heritage and family tradition – hunting and fishing are big business in the Mountain State.
In 2011 alone, sportsmen and women spent $870 million on hunting and fishing in West Virginia and paid $81 million in state and local taxes.
Title II of this bill establishes an important precedent that seems pretty common sense to me – Federal land should be open to hunting and fishing, within existing laws, unless there is a reason for it not to be.
Nothing in the bill opens any sensitive areas that are already closed to these activities.
It merely establishes the precedent that our public lands should be open to the public so that people can enjoy them.
I think it’s a shame that we all too often get caught up in debates between environmentalists and sportsmen – both of whom want to preserve and protect the great outdoors.
Gale Norton, Secretary of the Department of the Interior under President George W. Bush, once said:
“Dating back to Teddy Roosevelt, hunters have been the pillar of conservation in America, doing more than anyone to conserve wildlife and its habitat.”
I’m a firm believer that introducing someone to the great outdoors through hunting and fishing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to show them why conservation matters.
I was also very pleased to see that the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was included in this bill.
In West Virginia, LWCF has helped maintain and expand access to some of our State’s natural treasures for the benefit of all.
Access projects funded by LWCF, in places like the Monongahela National Forest, Canaan Valley, and the Gauley River, not only keep public lands public for sportsmen, but also promote West Virginia’s thriving and growing outdoor recreation economy.
A Section 6 habitat grant was the centerpiece of a project up in Cheat Canyon that leveraged state, local, and private funds to protect another incredible river that provides outdoor recreation in the northern part of the state.
A different type of grant protected key battlefield areas around Harper’s Ferry last year.
The permanent reauthorization of the LWCF is another one of my top priorities, and I commend my colleagues for working together, across partisan lines, to include it in this bill.
For the past two Congresses, we have tried and failed to pass a Sportsmen’s package through the Senate despite strong bipartisan support.
I commend Senator Murkowski and Senator Heinrich for their leadership on the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act this Congress, and I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this bill.
Today Is Mother’s Day, Help Polar Bears by Voting for for the Photo of a Mom Nursing Two Cubs
Nature and wildlife photographer Florian Schulz has taken some of the most striking images from one of the world’s most complex, contested and endangered ecosystems.
I first encountered the award-winning photographer Florian Schulz in 2010, when he was presenting his film Visions of the Arctic at the New York Times building in Manhattan with the nonprofit environmental advocacy group Earthjustice. I was awed by the footage that he captured with his wife and collaborator, Emil Herrera Schulz. Their work clearly illustrates the stunning natural beauty and majesty of life in a region that has been threatened by industrialization and climate change.
In 2012, he released the book To the Arctic, a panoramic photoessay that is the official companion book to the Warner Brothers IMAX film To The Arctic, which followed the lives of a mother polar bear and her two seven-month-old cubs as they try to survive in the rapidly changing place they call home.
I had a chance to talk with Florian about his experience in the Arctic, his current project and the poignant image that has been nominated for Por El Planeta, the first international conservation photography competition, sponsored by National Georgraphic.
Reynard Loki: Over the last several years, you’ve spent a great deal of time in the Arctic. What draws you to this place?
Florian Schulz: For me it’s about going to a place that is fairly unknown and getting a chance to look at the world from a different perspective. For example, most of the world goes through different seasons, but in the Arctic there is a really long winter with lots of darkness and then it turns around and there is all this sunlight as the sun never sets. With this change, there is an influx of life and a place that seemed like a barren frozen wasteland suddenly flourishes with life and you witness a tremendous amount of animals, including millions of migratory birds and hundreds of thousands of caribou. What is also intriguing to me is how well Arctic animals have adapted to their environment. For humans, the freezing cold is devastating but polar bears and seals and birds deal with it just fine. For them, the problem is when the temperature become too warm.
RL: While the Arctic has an abundance of well-adapted wildlife, there is also the tragedy of animals not being able to survive because of the melting ice. Polar bears cannot find food and there have even been reports that some bears have resorted to cannibalism, which some experts say may be a result of food stress, when their preferred prey—seals—is unavailable, something that has been linked to melting ice. A mother polar bear swam over 400 miles in nine days in search of food; scientists blame global warming. Is this something that concerns you?
p>FS: Absolutely. In my short time I have seen dramatic changes in the Arctic in different areas. For example, along the coast in Alaska you can see how the permafrost is just melting away; it looks like the icing on a cake that disintegrates as whole hillsides just slide away into the Arctic Ocean. I have seen polar bears swim and come to land and they are extremely thin and malnourished because they have to swim hundreds of miles to find food. So you do see these changes. Of course, we love polar bears, and without the sea ice they cannot hunt for seals. But the problems are even bigger with the tiny animals like the zooplankton at the bottom of the food chain, which are key to the entire ecosystem. Warming temperatures and ocean acidification are having a major impact overall.
RL: The Arctic is in many ways ground zero for climate change as the events there are so stunning and impact the rest of the global climate in terms of temperature and sea level rise. If you could ask climate negotiators at the upcoming UN climate meeting in Paris later this year one question or tell them one thing based on your personal experience in the Arctic, what would it be?
FS: I would ask for reason. Because the science is obvious. There are of course the deniers, but it is a fact that we are facing dramatic change. The Arctic shows the signs of the changing climate faster because the temperatures are rising twice as fast there. But it’s only one sign of what’s happening across the entire world. We have seen many major storms, floods, droughts—basically weather going to extreme and the Arctic is more of an indicator of what will happen, so it gives us a chance to listen up now. My big hope is that reason will take on more of a stand because I think we all know what’s going on. We are being bribed by the resource industries like oil and gas who want to keep doing business as usual. We cannot go on doing business as usual, using the same resources, using the same kind of transportation and pretending that everything is going to be fine because it won’t.
RL: There are concerns that the melting ice will permit more trade routes and tourism throughout the Arctic. Did you witness any evidence of tourism when you were there? Was there plastic garbage floating in the water?
FS: I’ve been in many different parts along remote coastlines and it’s shocking how much plastic one finds, but I wouldn’t say that in the areas of Arctic that I have been, in Alaska or Spitsbergen or in Canada, that I would see specifically a lot of plastic. The issue with the shipping routes is definitely a major problem because through the Aleutians, the shipping routes will increase going through the Bering Sea and possibly the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Because there’s very little infrastructure, if there is a disaster, you cannot react very easily to an oil spill or if a ship gets into a storm.
RL: What was the most dangerous moment during your Arctic travels?
FS: I was camping on the ocean ice in polar bear country for weeks at a time and that was dangerous. Polar bears came to our tent and we had to scare them away by shouting or by even firing a flare gun into the air. But one of the most dangerous moments that I lived through was at the edge of the lead, a narrow crack in the ice. I was laying on the ice photographing a bird, a black guillemot and when I was moving my tripod suddenly I realized I was poking through the ice. It would’ve been very easy for me to fall through if one of these little sheets of ice were to break off and with the water temperature at 30° I would’ve drowned very quickly. So it wasn’t the polar bears, but photographing these birds that almost killed me and in hindsight that was actually quite scary. I was just not thinking—I was in artist mode just obsessed with this image that I wanted to capture.
RL: You took this powerful and poignant image of a polar bear mother nursing her two cubs, which has been nominated for the Por El Planeta Award. Can you describe how you came across this scene and taking the photograph?
FS: So imagine that polar bears are really ocean animals especially on the ocean ice. That’s why they are called Ursus maritimus, the sea bear. They really live out on the ocean ice most of the year. In the winter of course it’s frozen, but later in the year the ice falls apart and disintegrates more and more. So this mother was actually out on a little ice floe in the Arctic Ocean trying to hunt seals because that was the last area where there was still sea ice remaining. This mother stayed around our boat and we got a real insight into her life. It was absolutely amazing how well she took care of her young. During this time however, big male polar bears were in the area and they were trying to actually hunt her cubs and so she always needed to be on the lookout. I actually witnessed one big male sneak up on them and surprise them and they had to run for their lives. This photograph for me was so touching because it was that moment of relaxation when this mother gives everything to her cubs. She has taken care of them for all those many months, and skipping all the different dangers, providing food for them and then actually leading them away from that male and actually confronting that male polar bear, fighting against him so he wouldn’t eat her cubs. And this was her moment of peace, giving milk to her babies. For me it was wonderful to see their bond. As an artist I look for these little details of the perfect symmetry, that Zen moment. In this photograph, it really comes together in that one single moment: An expression of that mother’s devotion to her cubs.
RL: If you win this award, you said that part of the prize will help fund your current Arctic project, which is about conservation. Can you tell us a little bit about this project?
FS: My current project is basically to document the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. President Obama said that he would like to protect large portions of the refuge from mining and drilling. I’ve moved into film and have been documenting it last year for five months and this year already for another two. In many areas along the coast there are polar bears that are really depending on these areas, but the oil industry is interested in drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. It would affect all this polar bear habitat. The nice thing about the Por El Planeta contest is that all of the proceeds from the registration process will be donated to conservation initiatives, with fifty percent of the proceeds going to an initiative related to the photograph that wins the People’s Choice Award, which in my case would be polar bears.
To vote for Florian’s photograph and help polar bears, click here.
RL: So you are moving more into film for this new project?
FS: Yes, we are shooting in cinema quality the big caribou migrations, the landscapes, the auroras and the overall beauty of the Arctic refuge. There is some photography as well but right now we are really focusing on creating the highest quality footage available. We will be doing aerial shots and showing the broad range of wildlife, from the birds to the bears to the caribou and of course the landscapes: There is a wealth of wildflowers in the Arctic plains, bumblebees and many things that people wouldn’t expect of the Arctic. My goal is to give the public the possibility to see what the Arctic refuge is all about because some politicians have called it a barren wasteland or a flat white nothingness. So for example we were just filming musk ox and seeing how they were using the land, surviving in these freezing temperatures, giving birth to calves and going about their ancient rituals such as fighting amongst the bulls. So basically I want to show people what this place is all about so that they can make up their own minds about how they feel about it.
RL: You mentioned that you love going places where humans have had little impact. What other places are on your list?
FS: I’m actually finishing up a book which is called The Wild Edge, which will come out this fall. That is looking at the last large, beautiful intact ecosystems along the western seaboard between Baja California and the Arctic. So from the gray whale migration from Baja to Alaska to bird migrations, I’m highlighting those areas that are still wild and scenic, like the coastline of British Columbia, southeast Alaska and the Aleutians. I am always trying to go to places where the ecosystems are still fairly intact, where the landscape still belongs to animas, because that’s what I think is worth preserving the most.
Recently the temperature reached 60 degrees, so I headed outside and checked some of my nest boxes. I really didn’t expect to find any active nests just yet, but thought some bluebirds, chickadees or Carolina wrens might have begun gathering nesting material. No such luck, but in another week nesting will surely have begun.
The contents of one box, however, quickened my pulse. Located on the edge of a woodlot, finely chewed plant material surrounded by an envelope of large intact leaves jammed the box. I gently poked the nest until I saw some movement. Suddenly two big black eyes stared back at me. It was a flying squirrel.
After we checked each other out for a few seconds, she jumped from the box and sailed to the base of a nearby tree. She instantly scurried to the far side of the trunk to stay out of sight. We played hide-and-seek while I tried to get a better look at her. But each time I peeked around the trunk, she managed to keep the trunk between her and me. Finally, after several minutes, she leapt onto a larger tree trunk, and I got a chance to admire her.
Back at the box, I found four naked and helpless pups. I estimated them to be three or four days old. Given the flying squirrel’s 40-day gestation period, this female had bred in early to mid February.
At about four weeks of age, the pups will be fully furred. At seven weeks, they will be adult-sized — ten inches long including a flat four-inch tail and about three ounces — and ready to leave the nest. The first brood stays with mom until she bears a second litter in July or August.
Southern flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans) inhabit most deciduous and mixed deciduous/coniferous woods east of the Great Plains and are quite common. If a woodlot has oaks, beeches, hickories and/or walnut trees, it is sure to have flying squirrels.
Because flying squirrels are strictly nocturnal, they’re seldom seen. An evening in any woodlot, especially one dominated by nut trees, is one way to remedy this.
You might hear the sound of teeth gnawing nuts overhead. Or perhaps you’ll catch flashes of white gliding from tree to tree. This is best done on a moonlit night. As a flying squirrel twists and turns through the forest’s obstacle course of outstretched branches, its white belly stands out in the moonlight. When it lands, note how it disappears to the back of the tree, a habit that no doubt pays off when it crosses paths with a hungry owl.
A flying squirrel’s diet is as varied as the seasons. In February, a flying squirrel might take peanuts, corn or sunflower seeds from a bird feeder, eat swollen buds or slice into the bark of a sugar maple and lap up the sap that flows. In May, it switches to insects, and occasionally raids bird nests for a meal of fresh eggs or nestlings. In August, mushrooms, fruits, berries and mice are abundant and irresistible. And in October, flying squirrels gather and store bushels of acorns, beechnuts, walnuts and hickory nuts to get them through the coming winter. Fairy diddles, as flying squirrels are sometimes called, eat whatever the forest provides. (In some parts, red squirrels are also called fairy diddles.)
By day, flying squirrels sleep in den trees or nest boxes, often in groups of four to 12 individuals during the winter. Flying squirrels do not hibernate; they huddle together in small groups to stay warm.
One final note: Flying squirrels do not fly. They glide. Courtesy of a flap of skin that runs from wrist to ankle on each side of the body, they sail from tree to tree. Upon takeoff, this skin balloons and permits a controlled glide. The flat tail serves as a rudder to guide the “flight.” Most flights are short, 30 to 40 feet, but biologists have observed trips as long as 300 feet.
~~ Dr. Shalaway - 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033 ~~
Though song bird migration peaks in May, early spring is a great time to learn and review waterfowl identification. Binoculars and a field guide are the essential tools.
To find waterfowl, visit lakes, ponds, flooded meadows and rivers, especially near dams. These are the habitats ducks frequent as they head north in spring.
First, notice how a duck behaves on the water. If it feeds on the surface by tipping its hind end into the air and stretching its neck beneath the water, it’s a dabbling duck. To fly, dabblers jump directly upward off the water.
If, on the other hand, a duck dives beneath the surface of the water to feed, it’s a diving duck. To fly, divers must patter along the surface to get airborne. That’s because their legs sit to the rear of the body to facilitate diving. This leg position makes divers ungainly on land, but they are excellent swimmers.
Here’s a brief guide to the key features of some male ducks you might encounter on local waterways. Hens are duller and require a bit more experience to identify, though in the spring, they typically associate with drakes of their own species.
Wood Duck (1.3 lb.) — conspicuous slick-backed crest; multi-colored gorgeous bird; red eye ring, red bill; white throat and cheek markings; cavity-nester.
Mallard (2.4 lb.) — green head, white collar, yellow bill, chestnut breast, curly-cue tail.
American Wigeon (1.6 lb.) — white forehead and crown; green mask; white inner wing patch in flight.
Northern Pintail (1.8 lb.) — chocolate brown head; white breast with narrow white finger extending up neck; long pointed tail.
Northern Shoveler (1.3 lb.) — green head; large spatula-shaped bill; white breast; brown sides; powder blue shoulder patch in flight.
Teal — two eastern species, both small; blue-winged teal (13 oz.) — powder blue shoulder patch in flight and wears an obvious white crescent on face; green-winged teal (12 oz.) — the smallest dabbler; chestnut head with green ear patch that extends down neck; iridescent green patch on wing.
Canvasback (2.7 lb.) — dark rusty head; profile of head angular; black bill and breast; light-colored back; favors deeper water.
Redhead (2.3 lb.) — rusty head; profile of head a bit concave rather than angular; breast black, back gray.
Ring-necked Duck (1.5 lb.) — poorly named; white ring near bill tip; head may appear pointed; gold eye; dark head, breast, and back; sides gray.
Common Goldeneye (1.9 lb.) — dark head with round white cheek patch; gold eye; breast and sides white; cavity-nester.
Bufflehead (13 oz.) — small; dark head with large white bonnet; white breast and sides; cavity-nester.
Mergansers — three species; all have “toothed” bill for catching fish; common merganser (3.4 lb.) is large with green head and red bill; white body, black back; cavity-nester; red-breasted merganser (2.3 lb.) has green head with shaggy crest, wide white collar, and streaked rusty breast; hooded merganser (1.4 lb.) has black bill, black crested head; when crest is fanned, large white patch appears; gold eye; chestnut sides; cavity-nester.
Ruddy Duck (1.2 lb.) — chunky compact duck; tail often cocked upward; head dark with large white cheeks; bill blue; body chestnut.
Other waterfowl you might encounter this time of year include a variety of much larger geese and swans.
Canada Geese (6 to 12 pounds) — widespread and common. Often loaf at city parks, golf courses and athletic fields, where their droppings foul the landscape. Identified by a conspicuous white chinstrap that marks the black head and neck.
Snow Geese (5 to 8 pounds) — stocky white geese with black primary wing feathers and a pink bill.
Tundra Swans (14.4 pounds) — large and all white; usually seen flying overhead in migration. Most individuals show a bit of yellow between the eye and the base of the black bill.
Trumpeter Swans (23 pounds) — huge and white with black bill. Once quite rare in the east, their numbers have rebounded in recent years.
Mute Swans (22 pounds) — huge and white with large orange bill. Native to Eurasia. Introduced to North America to populate parks and private lands; often a pest by harassing native waterfowl and destroying aquatic vegetation.
~~ Dr. Scott Shalaway - 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033 ~~
Anglers should call the Beech Fork Corps of Engineers office at 304.525.4831 and go to www.lrh-wc.usace.army.mil/wc/bbfns.htm for information and current lake levels. No current fishing reports, the lake is at summer pool almost due to recent rains.
During the winter season, anglers should fish slowly and methodically. Fish will still feed but have a slower metabolism. A few bass are being caught off rocky points using live minnows. Anglers should look for points that have some cover such as stumps, logs, or ledges. Some hybrid striped bass may be caught using large chubs. Anglers should try spots such as at the mouth of the Bluestone Arm or near the dam. With any warm, stable weather, fish may become more active. Try to pick a day that is bright and sunny which warms up areas of the lake, especially dark or mud banks. A few degrees can make a difference! Right now the tailwaters are high and unfishable with more rain expected. Anglers should be careful wading this time of year due to the cold water and slippery conditions. Wear your personal flotation devices at ALL times!
The lake is at winter pool and frozen in places. Fishing has been challenging with the cold and ice. Bass are in about 10-12 feet of water. Crappie and bluegill are also hitting on jigs and live minnows. The tailwaters were stocked with trout February 11. For more information call Corps of Engineers at 304.853.2398 and go to www.lrh-wc.usace.army.mil/wc/busns.htm.
For information on current lake levels call the Corps of Engineers recorded message at 304.849.9861 and go to www.lrh-wc.usace.army.mil/wc/eltns.htm . No current fishing reports, the lake is at summer pool almost due to recent rain.
During the winter season, fish are still active but have a slower metabolism, so anglers should fish slowly and methodically. Spotted bass are hitting plastic jigs in crawfish colors. The spotted bass will be found along the rocky drops with points another good spot to try. Walleye are starting to be creeled by local anglers. Best places to try are along the shallow clay flats either early or late. As the year progresses, walleye will be moving up the river to begin spawning. Best baits are jigs tipped with minnows or nightcrawlers. With any warm, stable weather, fish may become more active. Try to pick a day that is bright and sunny which warms up areas of the lake, especially dark or mud banks. A few degrees can make a difference!
The lake is at normal pool and frozen in places. Fishing has been challenging with the cold and ice. Bass are in about 10-12 feet of water. Crappie and bluegill are also hitting on jigs and live minnows. A few walleye have also been in about 10-15 feet of water.
The lake is at winter pool and frozen in places. Fishing has been challenging with the cold and ice. Bass are in about 10-12 feet of water. Crappie and bluegill are also hitting on jigs and live minnows. The tailwaters were stocked with trout February 11. Before heading to the lake please call Corps of Engineers at 304.269.7463.
The lake is at winter pool and frozen in places. Fishing has been challenging with the cold and ice. Bass are in about 10-12 feet of water. Crappie and bluegill are also hitting on jigs and live minnows. Walleye are being caught off rocky points in about 10-15 feet of water. Try minnows and small crank baits. The tailwaters were stocked with trout February 04. For more information contact the Corps of Engineers at 304.872.3412 and go to www.lrh-wc.usace.army.mil/wc/suens.htm.
T The lake is at winter pool and frozen in places. Fishing has been challenging with the cold and ice. Bass are in about 10-12 feet of water. Crappie and bluegill are also hitting on jigs and live minnows. The tailwaters were stocked with trout February 11. Before heading to the lake please call Corps of Engineers at 304.765.2705 and go to www.lrh-wc.usace.army.mil/wc/suens.htm.
The lake level is about 40 feet above summer pool and all boat ramps are currently closed. Lake elevation is expected to decrease over the next few days. The tailwater outflow is about 15,000 cfs and muddy. Water temperature is 40oF. The tailwater boat ramp has been under water for the last few days and shoreline access is minimal during these high flows. Once water flow decreases, younger walleyes should be readily available as they have moved through the dam into the tailwater during high flow events (above 5,000 cfs). Walleye fishing is best during higher flows (1,500 to 5,000 cubic feet per second). Trout were last stocked in early February and trout fishing is best at low flows (less than 1,000 cubic feet per second). Call the Corps of Engineers telephone hotline at 304.265.5953 for daily lake and tailwater conditions.
NORTHERN WEST VIRGINIA
OHIO RIVER (New Cumberland, Pike Island, and Hannibal pools and tailwaters)
Over the next week, warming water temperatures and high flows should trigger walleye and sauger to move into tailwater areas below dams. Jigs with minnows are particularly good baits but 3-inch plastic grubs and deep-running crankbaits are also productive.
Water temperature has warmed over the last week and is about 44oF. The river is high and muddy, but increased water temperatures and flows should cause fish to start moving upstream and congregate at tailwater areas just below the Morgantown, Hildebrand, and Opekiska dams.
Recent heavy rains and warmer temperatures have caused ice to break up. Debris may still be scattered around the lake due to ice damage last week. The winter boat ramp at the Cheat Lake Park near the dam is the only public ramp currently open. The tailwater fishing pier can be very good for walleye and sauger. The pier is located entirely in West Virginia about 25 minutes from Morgantown. Take U.S. Highway 119 from Morgantown to Point Marion, PA. Turn right after crossing the Cheat River and proceed 4 miles to Cheat Dam.
Try the tailwater fishing pier for sauger, smallmouth bass, walleye and white bass. Jigs with minnows or 3-inch power grubs are the best baits. White or chartreuse are good colors. Start fishing at dark when sauger and walleye begin feeding. The pier is located entirely in West Virginia about 25 minutes from Morgantown and is lighted for night fishing and is handicapped accessible
South Branch and Cacapon Rivers
Water levels throughout the area have dropped over the past week and near or slightly below normal flow for this time of year. Water temperatures are in the mid 40’s at most locations and the water is clear. Anglers are starting to catch a few smallmouth bass. The spring trout stocking season is underway and many streams are receiving weekly trout stockings.
Flows in the Shenandoah River are near normal flow for this time of year. Smallmouth bass are biting and fishing plastics near the head of pools around the bedrock ledges and in eddies is always a good strategy.
North Branch River
Flows in the North Branch are currently 800 cfs but projected to drop over the next couple days and there should be some great trout fishing opportunities by the weekend. The first white whitewater event on the North Branch is scheduled for April 11 and 12. Check the Corp or Engineers webpage for specifics or schedule changes.
Most small impoundments are in great fishing condition and some are receiving spring trout stockings. Check the 2015 fishing regulations to see if your favorite water is on the January or February stocking schedule.
Jennings Randolph Lake
There has been no recent reports of angler success at Jennings Randolph Lake. The West Virginia boat launch is scheduled to open for the season next Wednesday April 1. The WV launch is free and a $5 per day fee is collected for the Maryland Ramp. Jennings Randolph Lake has a dedicated phone line for up-to-date recreational information 304.355.2890.
Mt. Storm Lake
Anglers at Mount Storm Lake should target striped bass, black bass, and walleye. This is a great location for winter fishing since the lake doesn’t freeze. Fish can be caught throughout the lake but many anglers do well fishing with chicken livers near the discharges.
CENTRAL WEST VIRGINIA
Water levels are high, milky and some still with ice cover. If you are looking for a place to go, please check the fishing regulations and the WVDNR website for a list of public access sites or call your local WVDNR district office for some advice and a place to fish. The March trout stocking is rolling and going well. Make sure you purchase your 2015 WV fishing license.
SOUTHERN WEST VIRGINIA
The New and Greenbrier rivers are high and off color right now with more rain expected so fishing may be slow there. Sometimes high water improves the fishing at Kanawha Falls so anglers may also want to try their luck there for musky or walleye (use big chubs for bait) or lake anglers can find some excellent bass fishing at Plum Orchard Lake and Stephens Lake. Best baits are plastic worms fished slowly along the bottom, spinnerbaits are also good choices. Anglers should call ahead to make sure that the ramps are not iced over.
SOUTHWESTERN WEST VIRGINIA
Lower Ohio and Kanawha Rivers
Sauger and walleye will begin congregating behind locks, tributary mouths and along shoal areas in preparation for their spawn as soon as the water warms a bit, be ready! R.C. Byrd tailrace is a great place to try. Try bait, and small brightly colored jigs fished slow close to the bottom. Added scent or a small piece of bait or nightcrawlers attached to the tail end of jigs really helps at this time of the year. Fish S-L-O-W.
Guyandotte, Coal, Poca, Elk, and Mud Rivers
A few reports of very large muskies caught and released from the Elk and Coal rivers using slow moving baits and soft plastics (large tubes). Try for walleye and sauger behind lower and upper falls as they congregate with warming water temperatures to go through their spawning rituals.
Barboursville and Ridenour lakes were recently stocked.
WEST-CENTRAL WEST VIRGINIA
So far this month, trout have been stocked into the following area lakes: Rollins and Turkey Run lakes in Jackson County, Tracy Lake and Pennsboro Water Supply Reservoir in Ritchie County, Mile Tree Lake in Roane County, Conaway Run Lake in Tyler County and Cedar Creek State Park Ponds in Gilmer County. Additionally this month Mountwood Park Lake in Wood County will be stocked again. This information is updated daily at 4:00 pm, January through May. Trout anglers can use a variety of baits including small worms; mealworms, salmon eggs, cheese, or trout power bait. Lure anglers like small spinners, Joe type flies, and trout magnets also work well.
This is a good time to fish Ohio River tailwaters. Anglers fishing below the Belleville dam are catching a few sauger, walleye and a few other species. Suspended minnows or lead headed jigs with twister tails (white or chartreuses), which are fished along the bottom, are the lures of choice. When the river is running high and muddy clever anglers are tipping their jig hooks with minnows. Best spots to fish these areas include eddies and back-current sections, and anywhere that river flows are unusual slow. Fishing along the Willow Island tailwaters is restricted due to hydro-power development. Anglers now have access only to a point approximately 150 yards below the dam, and flows have changed significantly.
Warm water discharges associated with industrial facilities hold fish in the winter along the Ohio River. Best bet for lures here include crank baits and rubber jigs. Expect to catch white bass, hybrid striped bass and a few other species at these hot spots.
Fishing for largemouth bass can be good during warm sunny days in area lakes. Slowly fished rubber worms or jig-and-pig combos are good terminal tackle choices. Area lakes with good winter bass angling opportunities include Mountwood in Wood County, Conaway Run in Tyler County, Charles Fork in Roane County, North Bend Lake in Ritchie County, and Elk Fork, Woodrum, and O’Brien lakes in Jackson County.
Musky streams are expected to be fishable this weekend. Winter musky anglers use medium to large lures, and they concentrate their fishing efforts around brush piles or other areas of good cover. Middle Island Creek, the major streams in the Hughes River system, and the Little Kanawha River are good area musky waters.
Ohio River (Wheeling)
Big Sandy (Preston)
Black Water Creek
S. Branch (Potomac)
S. Branch (Smoke Hole)
N. Fork S. Branch
West Fork River
Cherry River (N. Fork)
Cherry River (S. Fork)
Greenbrier (E&W Forks)
Elk River (Webster)
Elk River (Back Fork)
New River (Hinton)
Horse Creek Lake
Big Huff Creek
Glade Creek (New River)
New River (Gauley)
Glade Creek (Man)
Dry Fork Creek
WESTERN & SOUTHWESTERN
Little Kanawha River
March 25, 2015
Big Sandy Creek
Coopers Rock Lake
East Fork Greenbrier River
Glade Creek of Mann
Horse Creek Lake
Jimmy Lewis Lake
Little River East Fork Greenbrier River
Middle Fork River
Mountwood Park Lake
North Fork of South Branch
South Branch (Smoke Hole)
Tomlinson Run Lake
March 24, 2015
Beech Fork Tailwaters
Cacapon park lake
Dunkard Fork Lake
East Lynn Talwaters
French Creek Pond
Jenning Randolph Tailwaters
Laurel Fork of Holly River
Left Fork of Holly River
Lick Creek Pond
Middle Creek (Berkeley)
Mill Creek (Berkeley)
North Fork of Anthony Creek
North Fork of Patterson Creek
Right Fork of Little Kanawha
Rocky Marsh Run
South Branch (Franklin)
South Fork of Cranberry River
West Fork of Twelvepole
March 23, 2015
Buffalo Fork Lake
Deer Creek (Pocahontas)
Fort Ashby Reservoir
Kimsey Run Lake
Mill Creek of South Branch
New Creek Dam #14
Spruce Knob Lake (condition of lake: 75%-80% slush ice; clear 20 feet around edges)
Hibernation Season Over, Will Disease-Ridden Bats Emerge From Caves and Mines This Spring?
White Nose Syndrome now infects bats in several northeastern U.S. states
Hibernation season over, will disease-ridden bat
Hibernacula, they’re called: Places where species like bats hibernate.
Bats by the thousands congregate in such caves and mine shafts, spending their winters away from the elements.
Now they’re anything but safe.
Their promixity to one another, along with the caves’ and mines’ natural humidity, has fueled the outbreak of one of the worst bat diseases in history: White Nose Syndrome (WNS).
First diagnosed in bats in a cave near Albany, N.Y., in 2006, WNS spread from bat to bat, colony to colony, across the northeastern United States.
The disease is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which results in a skin infection, a distinctive white growth around the muzzles and on the wings of bats. WNS spreads as bats hibernate in winter.
As of 2012, the disease was linked to some 6.7 million North American bat deaths.
Greater mouse-eared bats, European bats that canbecome infected with White Nose Syndrome.
The fungus was likely carried to the United States by humans traveling to and from Europe, scientists believe.
WNS and the skin lesions it causes are widespread in European bats. In Europe’s bats, however, no mass mortality has been documented. Why? Researchers are working to find answers.
Back across the pond: From Vermont to Virginia and beyond
In the United States, WNS has been present for several years in Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, says biologist Winifred Frick of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
She and colleagues recently published a paper in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography that details the disease in 468 bat colonies in these six states.
The scientists compared the results with those from 640 colonies in eight European countries: Norway, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
WNS infections have been confirmed in all these nations but for Norway, where no surveys have yet been conducted.
“We used four decades of population counts in 16 species of hibernating bats,“ says Frick, “to determine the effect of WNS on bats in North America compared to those in Europe.“
WNS caused a 10-fold decrease in colony sizes of hibernating bats in eastern North America, a dramatic decline across multiple bat species, Frick says.
Most affected, perhaps, is the northern long-eared bat, Myotis septentrionalis. The species is being considered for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Northern long-eared bats have vanished from some 69 percent of the hibernacula where they were once found.
“Mortality from WNS has placed this bat species in peril,“ says Frick. “It now appears at significant risk of extinction.“
Into the field…or the cave
To obtain information on the status of bat colonies, biologists visit subterranean habitats where bats hibernate during winter—caves, mines, old war bunkers, anywhere that’s dark, cool, moist and protected from harsh winds and freezing temperatures.
There scientists count numbers of bats in each species. For the past few decades, such winter censuses have taken place every year or every other year in countries in Europe and North America, says Frick.
In the recent study, she and co-authors focused on bats in the family Vespertilionidae, which has members on both the European and North American continents.
“North America and Europe don’t share any of the same bat species,“ she says, “so we compared bats related at the family level.“
U.S. and European bat colonies now similar-sized
The researchers found that declines in U.S. bat populations have resulted in colonies in North America and Europe that are roughly the same size.
“The finding raises the intriguing question of whether hibernating bat colonies in Europe used to be larger prior to the presence of WNS,“ says Frick. “It hints that disease may be an important hidden force behind basic ecological patterns in bats and other species across continents.“
Sam Scheiner, program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, agrees. Scheiner represents the joint NSF-National Institutes of Health-Department of Agriculture Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) program, which funded the research.
“This study provides important insights into how a devastating disease has affected bats in the U.S.,“ he says. “Such information is essential for developing management plans to help save these species.“
The EEID program supports efforts to understand the ecological and biological mechanisms behind human-induced environmental changes and the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases.
The benefits of research on the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases, says Scheiner, include development of theories about how diseases are transmitted, increased capacity to forecast disease outbreaks, and knowledge of how infectious diseases emerge and re-emerge.
Does disease shape species distributions and abundances?
Disease is increasingly recognized as a serious threat to wildlife species, “especially as human travel increases the chance that we could accidentally introduce pathogens [disease-causing microbes] to new parts of the planet,“ says Frick.
Measuring how infectious diseases may change fundamental ecological patterns is essential for determining effects of these diseases on wildlife species.
“Our study offers the first evidence that disease can change macroecological patterns across continents,“ says Frick. Macroecology is the study of broad-scale patterns of species distributions and abundance.
Bat losses have widespread effects
Many bats are insect predators. As such, researchers report, they provide valuable “ecosystem services” for humans. Increases in insects like gypsy moths and cutworms—favorite bat meals—have economic consequences.
Cutworms, for example, are destructive garden pests that cause fatal damage to vegetables, fruits and flowers. Until bats swoop to the rescue.
Nonetheless, says Frick, when it comes to important wildlife species, bats are often overlooked.
It’s late March and winter hibernacula are opening, their bats beginning to emerge. Without bats, scientists say, the landscape of spring would be a far more insect-ridden, crop-damaged place.
“Today’s Catch” Photo on Social Media Results in WVDNR Citations Issued for Nearly 50 Poached
Following up complaints in person and by email that someone had been taking more than the daily creel limit of trout on Big Clear Creek along Anjean Road in Greenbrier County, Natural Resources Police Officers from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources District 4 Office in Beckley got some help from social media.
“I found that one of the suspect’s girlfriend had posted on Facebook a picture of what she was calling ‘today’s catch,’ a photo of a truck bed with approximately 48 trout on the tailgate,” said NRPO J.B. Hudson, who investigated the case. “I also obtained messages from Twitter about the catch and the time it occurred. I then began building my case.”
Officer Hudson was able to obtain the identities of the suspects, both juveniles, and questioned them and their parents. He determined that the trout had all been caught the same day, Feb. 6, 2015, and that the fish had been dispersed throughout the community. The two suspects were each issued citations for exceeding the creel limit of trout, exceeding the possession limit of trout, and illegal possession of trout.
“This case was brought to conclusion in large part thanks to the public reporting the incident by way of email and social media,” said Col. Jerry Jenkins, chief of the WVDNR Law Enforcement Section.
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation presents $50,000 donation for West Virginia Elk Restoration Project
At the regular quarterly meeting of the Natural Resources Commission held Sunday February 22, 2015, in South Charleston, Bill Carman, Regional Director for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) and its West Virginia State Chapter President Brian Satterfield presented a Seed Grant check in the amount of $50,000 to the West Virginia DNR for its active elk restoration program.
These funds can now be used by WVDNR to support its active elk restoration program. RMEF has been instrumental with the restoration of elk in Kentucky and Virginia just astride of the Mountain State’s designated southwestern coalfields elk zone consisting of all or parts of Logan, Mingo, Wyoming, McDowell, Lincoln, Wayne and Boone counties.
The commissioners and WVDNR Chief of Wildlife Resources Curtis Taylor thanked RMEF for this generous contribution, which is designated to kick-off the program. Revenues for such grants are generated by fundraising banquets held by local chapters here and elsewhere. West Virginia presently has four active chapters.
“The mission of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage,” Carman said.
Accepting the contribution on behalf of WVDNR were elk zone wildlife and law enforcement coordinators Randy Kelley and Sgt. Terry Ballard, respectively.
Photo courtesy of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
In photo, left to right: WVDNR Sgt. Terry Ballard, RMEF Regional Director Bill Carman, West Virginia State Chapter President Brian Satterfield, WVDNR District Biologist Randy Kelley.
The drastic drop in the number of bucks hunters killed in 2014 is reflected in the proposed regulations for the 2015 antlerless deer hunting season in West Virginia. Whether the changes are enough to satisfy hunters remain to be seen.
“The season framework is very similar or the same as in years past,” said DNR Game Management Supervisor Gary Foster. “There will be a lot of counties that are the same, but a lot of counties will be a lot more restrictive. That’s primarily due to that decreased buck gun harvest.”
Under the proposed regulations for 2015 Boone, Tucker, Wayne, Webster and portions of Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Mineral, Pendleton and Raleigh counties would have no antlerless hunting season.
Hunters in Randolph, Mercer, Nicholas, Pocahontas and portions of Clay, Fayette Raleigh counties will need to apply for a limited number of tags in 2015 and the bag limit will be one antlerless deer.
The biggest change may be a reduction in the antlerless bag limit in selected counties. Hunters in Barbour, Braxton, Cabell, Grant, Hancock, Kanawha (north of Elk River and west of Corridor G), Lincoln, Marshall, Pleasants, Preston, Summers, Taylor, and Upshur Counties will see their bag limit for 2015 set at one antlerless deer.
The other major change will be in the number of counties where hunters are required to kill an antlerless deer before they could kill their second buck. Thirty-one counties carried the so called “earn a second buck” restriction in 2014. The number this year is down to nine counties or parts of counties. Those are Calhoun, Doddridge, Gilmer, part of Greenbrier, Hampshire, Part of Mineral, Morgan, Ritchie, and Wood Counties. The bag limit in those counties for antlerless deer remained at three as proposed by game biologists.
The bag limit will also remain at three without the “earn a second buck” restriction in Berkeley, Brooke, Hardy, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Lewis, Marion, Mason, Monongalia, Monroe, Ohio, Putnam, Roane, Tyler, Wetzel, and Wirt County. The eastern portion of Pendleton County was also added to the three antlerless deer limit for 2015.
“The 2014 harvest was definitely low, but I don’t think it’s a reflection of a lower deer population,” said Foster. “There are a lot of other factors that came into play including the really strong mast crop and terrible weather in the first week of buck season, particularly on the first day. The data looks very similar to what we had in 2010 after the bumper crop when mast was at an all time high.”
The proposals keep the season framework intact. The season would be October 22-24, November 23-December 5 concurrent with the buck season. December 17-19 and December 29-31 on private land. The season dates for public land include November 23-December 5 concurrent with buck season, December 17-19, December 29-31.
The agency indicated harvest objectives and population density is more inline with management plans on the state’s public hunting areas. The proposals include a limited antlerless hunt with a bag limit of one on the Elk River, Big Ugly, and Wallback WMA’s and Greenbreir State Forest and Kumbrabow State Forest.
Biologist suggest unlimited hunting with a one deer bag limit for does on Castleman’s Run, Stonecoal Lake, Camp Creek, McClintic, Stonewall Jackson Lake, Amherst/Plymouth, Cross Creek, Beury Mountain, Chief Cornstalk, Lewis-Wetzel, Bluestone, and Greenbottom Wildlife Management Areas as well as Cooper’s Rock State Forest. Any public hunting area not specified in the proposal would follow the county’s proposed regulations for antlerless deer hunting.
The dates and bag limits are only proposals at this point. They will go out for public comment and the agency will accept comments on the ideas during the upcoming sectional meetings in March. The state Natural Resources Commission will vote on the proposals at their next meeting.
Harsh winters, meaning those with bone chilling temperatures and serious amounts of snow, such as last year and this year, bring the same question on an almost daily basis — why do I see “sea gulls” at the mall, at fast food restaurants and at garbage dumpsters?
The answer is weather related, but first let’s address the term “sea gull.” Everyone who has ever been to a coastal beach knows what it means, but “sea gulls” are not limited to seashores. In fact, Franklin’s gulls nest on the prairies of the northern Great Plains. Bonaparte’s gulls nest on the edges of the boreal forest in Canada and Alaska. And California gulls nest near lakes throughout the west. Among ornithologists and birders, the term “gull” suffices.
Most of the winter gulls seen here in the inland east are ring-billed gulls and herring gulls. Both are common along the Atlantic coast in the summer, but large populations also nest inland on the many islands of the Great Lakes. When winters are mild, they stay near the lakes.
But when polar vortices plunge southward and send us into a prolonged deep freeze, gulls wander south in search of open water. Last year was a classic case. In December 2013 the Great Lakes began icing up, but in mid January, 2014 temperatures plummeted, and the freeze accelerated. By March 06, 2014, the Great Lakes were 92.2% covered by ice. When it gets very cold, ice up can happen quickly.
It’s happening again this year. According to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) on January 06, less than 6% of Lake Erie was frozen. By February 09, more than 90% of Lake Erie and 54% of all the Great Lakes were frozen. Under these conditions, smaller bodies of water near the Great Lakes also freeze.
When this happens, gulls head south in search of open water. During the day they scavenge at landfills, dumpsters, parking lots and anywhere else they can find food. At night, they roost on ice near open water where they are relatively safe from predators.
These evening flocks can be quite impressive and often draw attention from gaggles of birders. In Pittsburgh, for example, thousands and sometimes close to 10,000 gulls gather near the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. Most are ring-billed gulls, many are herring gulls and sharp-eyed birders are always looking for rarities such as glaucous gulls, ivory gulls and greater black-backed gulls. Similar gatherings occur near Buffalo, NY and Niagara Falls.
Scanning thousands of birds for one or two individuals can be tedious, but it is always rewarding. That’s what birders do.
So that’s why we see gulls in winter. Ice freezes them out of preferred places, and they head south for open water. In the spring when the ice thaws, the gulls will return north to islands in the Great Lakes and beyond.
The most frequently seen winter gulls are ring-billed gulls. They are about 18 inches long and have a four-foot wingspan. The yellow bill is encircled by a black ring near the tip, hence its name. Other diagnostic features include a white head, yellow legs, yellow eyes, pale gray back and white underparts.
Herring gulls, the other common winter species, resemble ring-bills, but are larger, about 25 inches long with a five-foot wingspan. The bill is yellow, and the lower bill has a red spot near the tip. Also look for the pale gray back, white underparts and pink legs.
In nature, gulls are opportunistic scavengers. They eat fish, carrion, crabs, insects, mollusks, and almost any sort of organic garbage. Larger gulls can be quite predatory. Great black-backed gulls, for example, can swoop down and swallow ducklings and shorebird chicks whole.
If you’re puzzled seeing winter gulls, just look around. It’s probably very cold, you’re probably just a few miles from a lake or river and there’s probably an open trash receptacle nearby.
~~ Dr. Scott Shalaway - 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033 ~~