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We are getting a good accumulation of snow from the current storm. How will this type of thing affect pheasant survival? Since the snow reduces the quality of escape cover, we would expect a little higher predation. Pheasants tend to move to woody cover as the snow doesn't knock it down like it does the grass. Since we are almost in mid February, this storm should have little effect on populations. If this type storm happened in late December or early January, it could be a more serious problem. A snow cover this deep on the ground for many weeks could result in a difficult food situation as well as prolonged exposure to predation. We would provide supplemental feeding in areas of high bird populations but it would set back population growth. Hopefully spring is just a few weeks away.
 

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I am no scientist, but this snow can't be good for any critter. I haven't seen a bird of any type in a few weeks and even the squirrels are not attacking my bird feeder.
 

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My feeders are full of birds and the squirrels have been filling their bellies as well.
 

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I remember the winter of 77/78,the quail in Pa. never recovered and many beleive it was the beginning of the end for pheasants!I hope the groundhog was wrong!
 

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This snow is brutal,the best cover seems to be phragmites and cattails,some switchgrass seems to be holding up around here.
Lynn,The Courterman's farm that we surveyed was mostly Big Bluestem,how is it holding up?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I haven't been over since the snow but I know what that farm looked like before the snow. I would think the birds have moved to woody cover areas on his farm and across the road. I'm going over tomorrow and check things out.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Good news. The snow in the area is less than I thought. Bare ground is visible and the corn stalks are easiy seen. There is also some standing corn. Below is a pic of what pheasants do when it snows. They go vertical
I saw 10 roosters today while driving around.



One bird sits in the tree while another picks in a bare patch of ground. There were three other birds a little further down the ditch.
 

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It's about time you started taking your camera with you!LOL That's great news,we have about 18 inches here!They are tuff birds,with any kind of a break they will be fine.Can't help but worry though!
 

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From my own experience I found that low growing apple trees and heavy grass cover in old apple orchards were a favorite haunt, food source and night roost for the wild pheasants in N.E. Ohio and N.W. Pa.. I don't think that enough recognition is given to apple trees in regard to pheasant habitat. Planting a couple rows of apple trees along hardwood field borders would make it more difficult for areal predators to dive in on pheasants and provide improved food and cover for pheasants and other critters.


Here are some pics I took this month of standing grasses that made it through the 2009 / 2010 winter. They were planted on Grand River Wildlife Area in N.E. Ohio.

I think the first pic shows a 5 to 6' tall Big Blue Stem to the left and a 4' to 5' tall type of Switch Grass to the right. The big blue stem is quite packed down from the snows.

The second pic shows the same Switch Grass next to a field dominated by Golden Rod. That Switch Grass is the best winter grass cover I've ever seen. It was barely touched by the snow and held up better than the average stand of corn. It averages about 4' tall. It is very dense. A mixture of that Switch Grass and a lower growing grass, maybe Indian Grass, would be a good combination. I think a lower growing grass mixed in would be better to make it easier for small birds to move around in. My dog is about 31" at head height.



Tall Grass 1



Tall grass 2

 

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Discussion Starter #10
cmrosko, good pics showing big blue and switch. Big blue is disapointing for stability. Most of ours is flat before the snow even gets here.

I think all PF chapters should concentrate on heavy stands of switch grass. Although a stand of solid switch has little diversity in the form of forbes and other grasses, it is the best winter cover you can find. Let them find diversity in the surrounding landscape. With the minimum acreage we can get on the ground, it should be something that they will use to get them through the winter. Put a foodplot right next to it and you have the best little winter haven you can get.
 

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cmrosko,

You are right about the switch grass,other than phragmites and cattails it is the best winter cover there is,plus the birds will nest in it!The Big Bluestem is a better nesting cover,and since that is what is lacking most it gets a lot of attention!But I agree,after a winter like this,you can see the benifits of switchgrass!
Back in the day,we used to hunt apple orchards in Fogglesville,Lehigh County.While every one else would hit the cornfields,we hit the orchards and it didn't take us long to limit out!

Are there WILD birds where you took the pictures?
Good post!
 

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Unfortunately there are No wild birds around North East Ohio.In the late 60's and early 70's there were allot of wild birds here. Ohio is supposed to have some wild birds in the Northwest (Toledo), North Central (North of Columbus), and South Central (Chillicothe)areas though from as near as I can tell they are pretty scarce even in those areas. Generally Ohio's Division of Wildlife has shown little interest in developing wild pheasant populations. The focus of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources seems to be more on serving modern day agribusiness and real estate development.

The previous photos of Switch Grass show that it is very dense and early in the season so is the Big Blue Stem. They are so dense early in the season that not only is it difficult for people to walk through but I think pheasants also prefer to hang out in a less dense, less tall grass in the early season. I think they prefer grass cover with more open spaces. From my experience pheasants seem to like grassy cover that has some openings in it along with "clusters" of the more dense grasses and a bit of other brushy cover like milkweed or viburnum. They like to be in areas where field cover is of a height that they can occasionally stand up and look around or easily crouch down and be pretty well hidden with easy access to really dense escape cover if they need it. They seem to be attracted to grassy areas that have some amount Little Blue Stem mixed in with other grasses and field plants. Little Blue Stem is really common in this part of Ohio.

I think Little Blue Stem would be a good grass to mix in with the Switch Grass to provide some open space yet still resist heavy winters snows. See recent pics of Little Blue Stem that resisted the 2009 / 2010 snows. This was in the N.E. Ohio snow belt near Grand River W.A..


Little Blue Stem After Winter Snow Melt


Little Blue Stem In Snow
 
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