Congratulations are in order for Rick Hartzell, of Arbovale, for being named Wildlife Manager of the Year by the West Virginia State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.  He was presented the “Making Tracks Award” at the annual NWTF awards banquet on January 11.

Rick has been Manager of the Little River Wildlife Management Area for the last 24 years.  This large area extending from the state line and including Middle and Burner Mountains, parts of Cheat Mountain, and the headwaters of the Greenbrier River is Rick’s office and workshop where he maintains savannahs, trails and watersheds.  Much of this area is Monongahela National Forests, so he also cultivates a good cooperative working relationship with the Forest Service.

When asked his favorite part of the job, Rick replied “working with the animals.” And indeed he has worked with a few.    From participating in a wild turkey population dynamics study as well as grouse surveys for the Appalachian Cooperative Grouse Research Project, he has been deeply involved in studies of home range, food preferences and habitat improvement.

Rick has also been involved in a broad Golden Eagle survey that has been studying winter range in our area.  Several eagles winter in this area, but generally keep a low profile and are seldom seen.    Also, injured eagles and other raptors have been placed with rehabilitators, including the National Aviary out of Pittsburgh.

From his early career at French Creek to family life in Arbovale, “Rick’s career has been one of service, not just to the WVDNR, but especially to the sportsman and women of West Virginia,” said Curtis Taylor, Chief of the Wildlife Resources Section.  No doubt he will continue to promote wildlife programs and educate others about conservation.

For the Birds

During the recently completed Great Backyard Bird Count, eight checklists were submitted in Pocahontas County and a total of 33 species were found.  Not bad for a low population area.  But there was plenty of room for more observers and more submissions.  State wide, 119 species were recorded from a total of 848 checklists submitted during that four day period in mid-February.  Jefferson County led the state with 86 species, while Monongalia County had the most checklists with 97.

It won’t be long now until the first migrants begin to arrive.  In fact, several flocks of robins have already been seen as they make their way north.  That may have been my biggest surprise during the GBBC when a group of 13 robins visited the creek behind my house on February 16.

The cavity nesters such as bluebirds and tree swallows will begin to show up shortly, so now is the time to clean up and repair those bird houses.  If the weather warms a little, it would be a good time to build and distribute some new boxes.

Spring can’t be too far off, now.

Up next:  “The Amphibians are Coming.”

Dave is a telescope operator at the NRAO and can be contacted at davecurry51

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