Arkansas quail stamps wins Ding Darling art award

The northern bobwhite hen seems to sit blissfully, in an ideal patch of habitat covered by native grasses and flowers but with just enough clear space for its chicks to peck around.

The scene on the Northern Bobwhite Conservation Stamp is a realistic, but artistic, depiction of the ideal quail ecosystem in Arkansas, which won The Wildlife Society’s 2021 Jay N. “Ding” Darling Memorial Award for Wildlife Stewardship Through Art.

“[The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission] want to emphasize their habitat goals in the stamp artwork,” said Greta James, a graphic artist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission who illustrated the work. Colleagues like Marcus Asher and Randy Zellers shared their knowledge with James about northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) anatomy and habitat. “In my stamp, they wanted to highlight brood-rearing cover, which is lots of native grasses and wildflowers, like the coneflowers.”

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Northern Bobwhite Conservation Stamp for 2018-2019. Credit: Greta James

Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioner Steve Cook launched the stamp in 2018 as a way to increase funds for waterfowl conservation in the state. The stamp was worth $4.50, and 5,400 were sold in the first year, collecting $14,333 for quail restoration.

“That success resulted in a second year of production of the original stamp in 2019,” said TWS member James Ramakka, chair of the Jay N. “Ding” Darling Memorial Award Committee, in his report letter for the 2021 award. The award was created “to acknowledge individuals or programs that continue the vision and concept of using art to promote land, water,and wildlife conservation.”

Instead of using the same stamp that was released in 2018 and 2019, the agency decided to create a contest for new stamp designs in subsequent years.

“Quail and other grassland birds are steeply declining here in Arkansas, at a pace that is on track with or faster than other parts of their ranges,” said TWS member Ryan Diener, Arkansas state coordinator of Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever in a nomination support letter for James’ stamp. “Building awareness of, and interest in the stewardship of bobwhite quail and their habitats, is critically important for the conservation of this species.”

For James, the whole sense of the scene she drew brings her back to her time growing up in Arkansas.

“This is a cool way to give back and protect the beauty,” she said.

Click here to see the complete list of award recipients. For more about this year’s virtual conference, click here.

Header Image: Graphic artist Greta James designed the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Northern Bobwhite Conservation Stamp, which won The Wildlife Society’s 2021 Jay N. “Ding” Darling Memorial Award for Wildlife Stewardship Through Art. Credit: Courtesy Greta James