Monday, August 22, 2011

More red wolves = fewer 'coons = more birds

We've discussed some in the past the terrific work that has gone on to save the red wolf population in North Carolina. It's apparently having a positive effect on birds (but not raccoons, apparently).

"Good news for a wolf is good news for a turkey. At least it is in Eastern North Carolina, where red wolves are making a comeback and helping other animal species along the way," says McClatchy.

Since the wolves were reintroduced in 1987, biologists have watched them rattle all the links in the food chain.

"We've certainly seen turkey come back. We've seen quail populations increase," said David Rabon, coordinator of the Red Wolf Recovery Program.

Wolves' role in helping these ground-nesting birds is well known, Rabon said. Raccoons eat the birds' eggs, and red wolves prey on raccoons. More wolves mean fewer raccoons, and fewer raccoons mean more quail and turkey. Connecting the dots, more wolves mean more birds.

Effects like this aren't unique to Eastern North Carolina. Research from around the globe, compiled in an article in the journal Science last month, shows just how deeply large predators like wolves and cougars are connected to the ecosystems where they live. ...

There are three national wildlife refuges in the red wolves' territory: Alligator River, Pocosin Lakes, and Lake Mattamuskeet. The refuge managers work to create habitat for red wolves and other animals, including waterfowl, bears and alligators.

Other public lands in the area are managed as state game lands, where managers create habitat for species such as turkey, quail, and deer instead of wolves.

Creating a habitat for one animal doesn't necessarily make it harder for another, Rabon stressed. "The higher you go in the food chain, usually the larger the umbrella is for how many other species you also benefit."

But in the years since they've been reintroduced, the red wolves have expanded well beyond public land, where their impact is even less visible.

Much of the territory the wolves occupy is privately owned farmland. That land must be drained for farming, Rabon said, so it's already a very different landscape from the one the wolves might have originally inhabited. Because it's actively maintained for farming, any effect the wolves might have is constantly erased.

Friday, August 05, 2011

'Tar Heel Traveler' does the food tour

WRAL's Scott Mason may have the best gig in the state. He gets to travel all over North Carolina as part of his "Tar Heel Traveler" segments, taking him to interesting locales, meeting unique people and discovering the varieties of culture in this beautiful state.

Mason's most recent "Traveler" was a 25-minute-long exploration of some of Nawth Cackylacky's culinary hotspots. (Although, truth be told, very few of these places are probably recommended by heart doctors.)

Among the places noted in the special are Britt's Donuts in Carolina Beach, the Sunnyside Oyster Bar in Wilson and Flo's Kitchen -- home of the "Cathead Biscuits."

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Heat could be very bad for apple crop

A confession: I've always had this dream of having a large apple orchard in the mountains. It would be my ticket to the "Thomas Jefferson School of Gentlemen Farmers" (sans the other accomplishments, mind you). But now may not be the best time to take a stab at it, according to the Hendersonville Times-News.

“This heat has affected fruit, and a lot of growers are putting materials on to reduce sunburning,” said Marvin Owings, interim director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Henderson County office.

... Fred Hoots, owner of Fred Hoots Orchard, who has been growing apples full-time since 1966, said last year's and this year's summers are the worst he can remember with regard to hot and dry conditions.

Hoots just finished picking one of the earliest apple varieties of the year — the tasty, semi-sweet ginger gold — and he's been using a product that holds the fruit firm and prevents it from getting too ripe.


Meanwhile, Mark Williams, the county's new agri-business executive director, has been busy in his first month on the job, exploring opportunities for potential new markets for not only apples but other commodities as well, he said.

With the possibility of a couple of new buyers already that Williams has contacted, he's hoping Mother Nature will cooperate.

“The apple crop is looking good,” he said. “We've suffered through some hail storms — there are always those things to contend with, and other challenges that we face — but overall it looks like a good crop, and we're just trying to make it through until we get the apples picked and get them sold. Until that happens, you never know. There's always risk.”