Spencer Burke and City of Plano Natural Resources Specialist Ann Fuller at the City of Plano Northern Bobwhite Quail Flight Pen.
PLANO, TEXAS (June 2021) – Northern Bobwhite Quail will be making their calls in North Texas this year – thanks in part to efforts by Spencer Burke and others at the Connemara Meadow Nature Preserve. Spencer Burke, a rising senior at St. Mark’s School of Texas and Eagle Scout, incubated and hatched quail eggs in his house, raised the quail in brooders in his garage, and recently banded and released hundreds of them throughout the Connemara Meadow Nature Preserve and Oak Point Park in Plano. Spencer worked under the direction of Bob Mione, Texas Master Naturalist and Connemara Meadow Nature Preserve Manager and President of the Connemara Conservancy Foundation Board of Trustees.
According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, the habitat of the Northern Bobwhite Quail, and resulting population of the Bobwhite itself, is gravely threatened. Through the Connemara Meadow Nature Preserve’s Bobwhite Release program, Mione and Burke are hoping to reverse that trend. Last year, Mione and his team of volunteers worked with the City of Plano, the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center and Dr. William Woodfin, a private land owner located east of Melissa, to release Northern Bobwhite Quail on those properties, as well as the Connemara Meadow Nature Preserve. All have reported that the Northern Bobwhite Quail released late last summer have survived the winter and are successfully entering the breeding season. The 2021 plan is to continue releasing Northern Bobwhite Quail in each of those locations, perhaps two or three times. “Spencer has joined our volunteers in raising Bobwhites from chicks to be released in the Meadow, the Raptor Center, and the City of Plano. His previous experience in raising and releasing quail for the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area has been invaluable to the program. Spencer also independently incubated and hatched quail from eggs for release—which will add much needed diversity to the quail coveys,” Mione said. Some of Spencer’s Bobwhites have been released into a "call back" pen in the Meadow. The pen allows all but one Bobwhite to be released each morning in the Meadow; in the evening, that sole Bobwhite calls them back to the pen with a unique sound so that they can safely covey together and avoid predators. The goal of the call back pen is to allow the Bobwhites to learn how to survive in the open on a gradual basis prior to their total release into the Meadow.
Spencer is working on a multi-pronged effort to help preserve the endangered Blackland Prairie. With less than .02% existing prairies remaining, the Blackland Prairie which runs through North Texas, is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Spencer’s efforts to restore the Blackland Prairie include removing invasive grasses at Twelve Hill Nature Center, planting native grasses and wildflowers along the City of Dallas Northaven Trail, constructing and installing wooden solitary bee nesting boxes throughout North Texas parks and recreation areas to encourage pollination, and hatching and releasing Northern Bobwhite Quail into the Blackland Prairie. “I feel a strong responsibility to make a difference and help preserve our environment for future generations. As a Scout, I really enjoy being outdoors and appreciating the Earth’s natural beauty. We must all work together to protect our world—it takes each one of us to do our part,” said Burke