A recent youth-based quail restoration program in Alabama all started with a whistle.
As Laurie Weldon, 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent for Elmore and Autauga counties in Alabama, walked the property of Elmore County Extension in Wetumpka, she enjoyed the spring day by whistling back to a few of the bobwhites in the area. When some of her 4-H students asked what she was doing, she said she was talking to the bobwhite quail. It turned out none of her students knew what a bobwhite quail was—and Weldon began to form an idea.
Laurie envisioned her 4-H students raising quail at home for later release. That idea emerged as a reality when Laurie obtained a grant from Mid-South Resource Conservation & Development Council (RC&D) and sought more funding opportunities to allow her 4-H group to purchase eggs and supplies, hatch, incubate, brood, and raise to adulthood quail for release. The Alabama Covey Rise Chapter of Quail Forever and Laurie then joined forces in conservation when the chapter made a financial contribution to allow her to purchase eggs and supplies.
On June 18, 2016, more than 375 bobwhite quail were released on four properties in Elmore and Tallapoosa counties in Alabama. Three of these properties are owned by Russell Lands and are actively managed for bobwhite quail habitat; Russell Lands is a Platinum Level Sponsor of the Alabama Covey Rise Chapter since its inception. The fourth property was the habitat project on AL Hwy 128 outside Wind Creek State Park, a collaborative effort of Alabama Covey Rise, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Alabama State Park System, and the National Wild Turkey Federation. That project sits on 55 acres of land exclusively managed for quail habitat at the direction of the Alabama Covey Rise Chapter. Future plans include transforming this area into a walking classroom to provide education to local landowners about the best practices for creating quail habitat.
Laurie Weldon’s bobwhite whistle led to the next generation developing a love of bobwhite quail, and Elmore County 4-H is excited to keep the project going year after year with Alabama Covey Rise. If you are interested in this project or other 4-H opportunities, please call Elmore County Extension at (334) 567-6301.—Mark Knight – Board President, Alabama Covey Rise Chapter of Quail Forever