GARFIELD (AGFC) – On Saturday, May 20, a different sort of battle will shape up at the historic Pea Ridge National Military Park, “The Battle for the Bobwhite Field Day.”
The National Park Service, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Arkansas Forestry Commission, Ozark Regional Land Trust, Arkansas Master Naturalists, Northwest Arkansas Community College, Arkansas State Parks, Benton County Quail, and Pea Ridge National Military Park Foundation have all banded together to fight back land uses that have changed the landscape and its ability to provide habitat for northern bobwhite.
Modern land use practices have shut out quail, grassland songbirds, pollinators and other native species. Pea Ridge is the first NPS property in the nation to be declared a bobwhite focal area by the NBCI. This designation coincides with the renewed vigor of the AGFC’s northern bobwhite program to make quail restoration the Commission’s number one priority in Arkansas.
“There’s no better place or time for a bobwhite field day than Pea Ridge right now,” said Pea Ridge Park Biologist Nolan Moore. “We hope to attract landowners and others interested in history, bobwhites, grassland birds or pollinators and demonstrate the changes in the landscape that need to be made. It’s doable and we’re doing it. We want people to see and experience it. And they shouldn’t be surprised if they hear a few bobwhite calls during the day.”
The field day is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., and will highlight the practices used at the park to create a bobwhite-friendly landscape while restoring the land back to more of its appearance during the Civil War era.
Marcus Asher, AGFC state quail coordinator, says resetting the clock to an earlier time definitely will help the habitat for northern bobwhite.
“Everything during that time frame was more open and native,” Asher said. “Removing the cedars that had crowded the landscape and the exotic grasses like fescue have been critical ongoing steps to rebuilding the habitat for quail. And boosting the habitat surrounding remnant populations such as this will be key in our efforts to bring back the bobwhite.”
According to Asher, creating good habitat near remnant populations is essential in quail management because stocking and relocation programs are not effective when northern bobwhites are involved.
“When you think about it, if stocking pen-raised birds were a good solution, we’d have robust quail populations where field trials take place from the birds that survive those trials,” Asher said. “And relocating quail with our current technology is too rough on wild birds for them to survive the process. We would also be taking away from remnant populations and hindering their growth.”
A bird dog demonstration will kick off the activities at 9 a.m. Asher will give presentations during the event, as well as Kevin Eads, Superintendent of Pea Ridge and NBCI Director Don McKenzie. University of Arkansas Graduate Student Phillip Stevenson also will have a thorough discussion on the importance of pollinators and how the park’s actions will enhance their habitat. Food will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Self-guided tours will feature seed drill demonstrations, bobwhite habitat requirements, field and grass management, and eastern red cedar removal at specified locations around the park. Bird dog demonstrations will be held adjacent to the park at Patton Road. Maps will be provided at each stop, and each station will have personnel ready to explain key activities and answer questions.
Call Pea Ridge National Military Park at (479) 451-8122, ext. 1225, for more information about the event and the restoration effort.