Hunters mingled and laughed amid the clamor of horses and bird dogs. The aroma of chili and chicken stew wafted into a January sky that was as clear as it was cold.
It was as perfect a day as anyone could want for the Georgia Field Trials that have been held at Burke County's Di-Lane Plantation for most of its six decades.
On Thursday, however, there was more on the menu that warm food and quail hunting.
Members of Mobley's family were guests at a special celebration in which Di-Lane's famous stables were renamed in honor of a man who dedicated most of his life to the signature event that helped make Waynesboro the "bird dog capital of the world."
Mobley, who died in 1998 after serving many years as vice president of the Georgia Field Trial Association, was a modest man who would have downplayed his contributions to bird hunting and the notoriety it brought to Burke County, said his daughter, Dawn Mobley Mallard.
"He didn't get married, have babies or plant anything in January," she said. "This was his time to give to the sport he loved."
Mobley kept bird dogs and quail hunted ever since his childhood. "His legacy wasn't about money or anything else like that," she said. "It was about friendships."
Di-Lane, owned by the state of Georgia and operated as a public Wildlife Management Area, will have a new sign soon designating the Lamar Mobley Stables, said State Sen. J.B. Powell, who helped gain approval in the Georgia Legislature for the renaming.
He presented a copy of the resolution to Mobley's wife, Nell. "This is a great honor," she said. "He was a humble, modest person. He would be absolutely overwhelmed."
Mobley would have turned 70 on Jan. 8, said family friend John Ray Kimbrell. "This would be the best birthday present he could have had."
DUCKS IN COVER: We reported recently that the annual midwinter census of bald eagles at Thurmond Lake yielded just nine birds -- a big drop from the 19 spotted last winter.
Now that the 12 teams of spotters who fanned out across the lake Jan. 7 have reported their findings, it appears waterfowl numbers also declined -- but it might not necessarily mean there are fewer ducks this year.
When the study was conducted in January 2009, the lake's pool elevation was barely 316 feet above sea level -- or 11 feet lower than it was last week. Such a change leaves much of the flooded timber and shallow waterfowl feeding areas high and dry, forcing the birds into open water at lower elevations. Eagles, which typically feed on coots and small waterfowl, were spending more of their hunting time over open water.
This year, with water levels hovering near 327, most creek drains and hardwood bottoms along the lake's 1,200-mile shoreline have much more cover for waterfowl, making them harder to find. Several years of drought allowed plenty of low browse to emerge in areas that are now flooded. Such areas offer perfect places for ducks to feed and hide.
Here are some of the figures (provided by the Army Corps of Engineers) from this year's survey. Although the numbers show a decrease in some of the most common local species, it reflected an increase in some of the migratory ducks that might be moving through Georgia in greater numbers due to severe cold to the North:
- Canada Geese: 272 (down from 800 last year)
- American Coots: 3,606 (down from last year)
- Green Wing Teal: 130 (up from last year)
- Hooded Meganser: 100 (up from last year)
- Lesser Scaup : 10 (up from last year)
- Canada Geese: 272 (down from last year)
- Northern Pintail: 41 (not recorded in 2009)
- Ringneck: 100 (up from last year)
- Bufflehead: 64 (up from last year)
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.